Some seriously big off-season deals have been going down lately, and none is of more interest to me personally than Wes Welker’s emigration to Denver.
For those who don’t know, the 30-year-old Welker signed with the Broncos in a 2-year, $12 million deal. On the one hand, I’m a quiet fan of this move. Welker’s butter-fingered antics in the last two playoffs have really irked me and I’m firmly of the belief that one of the Patriot’s biggest off-seasons needs is to revamp its wide receiver corps to give Tom Brady a more versatile set of options down the stretch next season.
At 31 close on 32, Welker is not getting younger. There’s every chance that the Pats’ offensive scheme and the talent of Tom Brady have accentuated his talent as a possession receiver. Whether the Broncos and Manning are able to get the same kind of production is a big if, in my book – he’s not the kind of raw, dynamic talent that’s just going to thrive anywhere. I also think that the unceremonious jettisoning of Welker could provide a much-needed kick in the pants for the Pats offense as a whole.
Danny Amendola is an exciting prospect. He’s younger than Welker and has better overall speed. Like Welker, he can make defenders miss, but once he does, his yards after the catch potential is arguably greater due to his pace. He’s also got a great pair of hands. He could well develop into the kind of New England cult hero that the departed Welker was.
But there’s also a lot I don’t get. Drops or no drops, Welker has been the Patriots top receiver sine Randy Moss’ brief fling with New England ended. He has produced big numbers every season. While his lack of clutch play has been infuriating, it’s a first world problem being able to complain about what goes down in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl games – you have to be there in the first place, and Welker’s in-season production has been a big reason the Patriots have landed themselves in these positions.
There’s also the worrying thought that the ‘Patriot Way’ is getting the better of itself here. $12 million over two years is not big money. The Boston Globe has even gone so far as to say that the “arrogance and hubris of the organization” is finally rearing its head. Make no mistake, this is not a popular move in Patriot Nation – the drops would always have been forgiven. But
The news broke recently that they have resigned Aqib Talib, who had half a decent season and is of questionable character. Forsooth the Patriots’ need at the cornerback position is greater than at WR, but what kind of message does that send?
Trading him to top AFC rival Denver also isn’t the brightest move either – it seems like Belechik and co. are laying down the gauntlet to the competition. Some would call this confidence, while Patriot Haters will no doubt be adding it to their list of insurmountable evidence of the Patriots’ supreme arrogance. For sure, a fair few NFL heads will be pondering laying down some serious dough on the Broncos to reach the Super Bowl: they were a lot of Ravens luck away from an AFC Championship game last season.
There’s also the fact plain fact that, whatever Danny Amendola’s upside, he’s still Danny Amendola. There has been a lot of talent at the WR position up for grabs this off-season, and he while he was in the top-half, he wasn’t one of the real marquee names. He’s not Percy Harvin or Greg Jennings or Anaquin Bolden or even Michael Crabtree.
But most importantly isn’t the player that left, but the one that’s still here. Tom Brady is understood to have specifically restructured his contract so that Welker could be resigned. OK, he restructured it in the interests of the whole team, but don’t try and tell me that a big part of that wasn’t the expectation that his most trusted target would be back for 2013/14. How he reacts to having lost his go-to third down receiver remains to be seen. As does whether Amendola can step up to plate and become a true number one receiver. The Patriots need to draft big at the WR position now, if you ask me. They need to show Brady that this tough love was ultimately for the greater good. They need to go out and get him a down-field threat, the kind he hasn’t had since the mercurial Moss packed his bags.