Sharing some Welker thoughts
May, 17, 2012
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com
A few Wes Welker-related thoughts after his comments to the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian:
1. Clarity on state of negotiations. Welker's remarks make it clear that he didn't sign the franchise tag because momentum had built in contract talks. At first, one might have read it as the negotiations taking a downward turn after Welker signed the franchise tag, which would have really stung Welker. But this seemed to be a general comment about the state of negotiations since the 2011 season. Some important context there from a timing standpoint.
2. Welker's public approach. The Patriots generally prefer to keep negotiations private. Welker has taken a different approach. This isn't likely to help him at the negotiating table.
3. Projecting team's point of view. In attempting to think from a team perspective, a few factors that could be driving the decision-making process are the NFL's projected flat salary cap over the next few years, coupled with star tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez having contracts that expire after the 2013 season. Safety Patrick Chung and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, two other higher-end players, have deals that expire after 2012. The Patriots seem willing to extend a bit for the 31-year-old Welker, but it appears clear they have an end point and aren't budging far from it because of these factors.
4. Welker's final year in New England? If the Patriots placed the franchise tag on Welker next year, it would be at $11.4 million. That is a 20 percent increase from this year's tag figure of $9.5 million. Considering that Tom Brady's cap number next year will be around $22 million, the Patriots would have about 28 percent of their cap tied up in two players, which makes one think a '13 tag for Welker is unlikely and he will hit the open market (unless Brady's deal is tweaked, which is always a possibility). That makes it a stronger possibility that this could be Welker's final season in New England.
5. Negotiations can be harsh. A $9.5 million payday is significant, so Welker won't get sympathy from many. At the same time, his comments expose the hard edge that can be part of negotiations. Welker has done a lot for the Patriots over the last five years, and in many ways, has been the heart and soul of the team. There is a part of this that could make one say, "Welker deserves better." But business is business and the Patriots have had past success with their approach. Even quarterback Tom Brady's negotiation with the team wasn't easy. Neither were Vince Wilfork's and Logan Mankins' negotiations.