Tom Brady signed an inexpensive contract extension 16 days ago with the belief that the New England Patriots would put the proper pieces around him to make another Super Bowl trip. Brady agreed to a three-year, $27 million dollar deal to free cap space to ensure the Patriots would have the best chance at championship success moving forward.
Well, the road to the Super Bowl just got a heck of a lot harder for the Patriots with Wes Welker agreeing to a two-year, $12 million deal with the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos took advantage of the Patriots’ complacency in free agency and inked Welker to a two-year deal in hopes that he could be the perfect fit in the offense spearheaded by Peyton Manning.
The departure of Welker has to come as sort of a surprise, even with all the rumors swirling around this past week that said he may leave New England. The onus for Welker’s exit of New England is all on the Patriots management, though, not on the talented slot receiver.
The Patriots understandably did not franchise Welker, avoiding an $11.5 payment to the wideout for the 2013 season. But the Patriots could have easily worked out an extension with him before the free agency legal tampering period began, especially after Brady’s extension freed up $15 million in cap space.
The Patriots were fortunate that no teams highly coveted Welker over the three day legal tampering period and had another chance to re-sign him. Still, the two sides could not agree on a deal on the first day of free agency. Then, AFC powerhouse Denver offered him a two-year, $12 million contract. But he gave the Patriots one last chance to match the offer made by Broncos. The Patriots shockingly refused to match the offer, though, as they let him walk.
How can the Patriots management so badly undervalue Welker, who reeled in a team-high 118 receptions for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns this past season? How is the first player in NFL history with five 110-catch seasons not worth $6 million a year? How can the management possibly think that Welker, who has caught an otherworldly 112 receptions per year in six seasons with the team, is not merit a $12 million dollar contract over two seasons?
The Patriots’ decision to let Welker depart is puzzling. They quickly have found their replacement with Danny Amendola, who has the potential to dazzle the Patriots fans the same way Welker did. But with Welker gone two things are clear: the pressure is on the Patriots management to retain free agents Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer and the pressure will also be on Amendola to perform the way Welker did in his tenure as a Patriot.