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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

It's Nothing More Than Pure Luck Why Wes Welker Isn't the Patriots' Problem


You can’t have it both ways, Patriots sycophants.

Broncos receiver Wes Welker, who probably shouldn’t be playing the first four games of the NFL season in any case due to another concussion, will miss the beginning of Denver’s 2014 campaign to repeat as AFC champions after violating the league’s performance-enhancement policy.

When the news of Welker’s situation broke Tuesday night, the refrain in New England was typical; “Bill Belichick. Genius.” Wash. Rinse.

Oh? Well, are we to believe the percolating popularity of the narrative that claims the Patriots saw this coming with Welker, or the insistence that they offered him "more than he ended up getting in the open market," as Patriots president Jonathan Kraft said earlier this year?

Which is it?

The former Patriot, suspended four games, tested positive for amphetamine, and there’s speculation that the drug came by way of Welker dipping into some of the recreational drug Molly during his Gonzo afternoon at the Kentucky Derby back in May. In fact, you can count on one finger with MDMA residue the number of Patriots players that Belichick has dispatched in his prime who have gone on to have productive careers that New England missed out on. Asante Samuel. (You could argue that Adam Vinatieri is still whipping ‘em through the uprights as always, but it’s not like Stephen Gostkowski hasn’t been an erstwhile replacement over the past eight years.)

In his first year with the Broncos, Welker amassed 778 yards on 73 catches, his lowest totals since his days in Miami, but did score 10 touchdowns, which was a career-high in the Peyton Manning-lead, record breaking Broncos offense. Meanwhile, in New England, Welker’s slot replacement, Danny Amendola, caught 54 ball for 633 yards and two touchdowns, his lowest output in a “healthy” season since his rookie year.

Aha. But wasn’t it Julian Edelman, he of 105 catches, 1,056 yards, and six touchdowns a year ago that essentially exceeded Welker’s output in Denver? Sure, and if you want to believe the fairy tales the Patriots PR mavens in the media have already written, that’s just the way the team planned it. This, despite giving Amendola a five-year, $28.5 million deal the day Welker fled to Denver, and handing Edelman a one-year, $715,000 contract for 2013 almost as an afterthought.

Alas, the semantics of the situation don’t matter, unless of course you’re arguing with someone in the “In Bill We Trust” Mizaru camp, in which case you have a better shot of winning Russian Roulette with a loaded gun. It won’t put an end to the finger-wagging, especially by those who agreed that there was life after Welker for the New England Patriots. As one reporter put it Tuesday night, the “tsunami of sadness” after the Patriots failed to sign the wide receiver looks “stupider all the time.”

Thanks, Confucius. As the same reporter relayed the perceived message when the Patriots signed Amendola to replace Welker, “You are good. But you are not unique. And here's Danny Amendola with a five-year, $31 million deal to replace you.”

So, which way do the Patriots want it? Does the story line go that Belichick knew Welker was a concussion away from his NFL career being in jeopardy? Or did they, in fact, offer him more money to stick around for three more years? I suppose it depends how productive Welker is in a particular month.

"We had actually offered Wes a deal the summer before that on a three-year basis [that] would've left him in a financially better place than what he's going to end up having been in over those three years,” Patriots president Jonathan Kraft said in February at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. “But we were willing to do that at a certain time when his production was at a certain level, his age was at a certain level, and he was performing as a player. When we went another year into the process, we still in our head had a value that we were able to place on the player. The player and his agent thought that their value in the open market was going to be greater."

Welker eventually signed with the Broncos for two years, $12 million. By the time the player hit free agency, the Patriots’ offer was for two years. $10 million, plus incentives. Yup. Sure seems like Bill didn’t want the guy around. Even Kraft argued as much after watching Welker head to the Super Bowl with his new team, while Amendola was busy trying to tell anyone who would listen that he wasn’t a colossal bust.

“Going back to the consistency theme, Wes would’ve been our first choice,” Kraft said. “There was a dollar figure at that point that we weren’t willing to go beyond. And you put insurance in place by knowing what you’ll do if you can’t make a deal with that player. That involves going out and looking at the other guys in the league.

"We still offered Wes before free agency started, more than he ended up getting in the open market. But once free agency started, we went out and signed Danny because he fit a construct that worked within our system, and we couldn't take the risk of losing both Wes and Danny. So it really wasn't as much about the money, it was about trying to do a deal with Wes before free agency started. His agent had a view of the world that we didn't think was realistic."

In reality, Welker’s departure from New England had to do with his deteriorating relationship with Belichick more than anything else. (“When I’m answering questions from the Denver media, I’m not worried about what the Broncos’ people are going to think,” Welker said during his first training camp with Denver last August. “I’m worried about what Belichick will think. Isn’t that crazy?”) The fact is, the Patriots wanted Welker back, and they wanted him back for the same length of time as the Broncos gave him. Can we cease with the fallacy that this was all Belichick’s bidding?

Belichick and the Patriots backed into the luck of this one turning out the way it did, and while I’m sure they’re not dancing on the remnants of Welker discount jerseys in Foxborough today, there has to be a general smugness about the situation their former employee finds himself in today. And the “Patriot Way” fictive will be relayed in a "tsunami of propaganda."

The Patriots “let” another player get away at just the right time.

Isn’t revisionist history grand?

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