|The Pats would prefer Welker spend less time talking publicly about his contract. Reportedly, of course. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)|
It's been a busy week for the Patriots and Wes Welker. On Monday, the New England wide receiver joked that he had 9.5 million reasons to sign his franchise tender, which, a day later, is exactly what he did. By Wednesday, Welker admitted that discussions with the Patriots on a long-term contract had "actually gotten worse," and he's now being offered a smaller deal than what was on the table during the 2011 season (two years, fully guaranteed $16 million).
And that brings us to Friday, where the Boston Globe's Shalise Manza Young reports that Welker's comments haven't been well received at team headquarters.
"According to a team source," Manza Young wrote, "Welker's decision to go public in recent weeks about negotiations has not gone over well with the Patriots; two weeks ago, when he made appearances on various ESPN programs, he made reference to holding out at least through full-team minicamp next month. His words have only increased the chances that 2012 will be his final season with the team."
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, Welker has responded via his Twitter machine:
Don't believe the hype. Everyone wants to make a story. Control what u can control and move on.— Wes Welker (@WesWelker) May 18, 2012
Either way, it's been well established that head coach Bill Belichick isn't afraid to cut players who have, for whatever reasons, outstayed their welcome. The Patriots also spent free agency stockpiling wide receivers, signing Anthony Gonzalez, Brandon Lloyd, Donte' Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney, and re-signing Deion Branch -- all moves to protect against a possible Welker holdout or, down the road, choosing to go in another direction entirely. But let's not mistake quantity for quality. Gonzalez has an extensive injury history, Lloyd had been previously labeled something of a problem in the locker room, Stallworth and Gaffney are role players at best, and Branch is entering his 12th season.
Plus, we've seen what New England's offense looks like without legitimate pass-catchers: the 2006 team won 12 games but was bounced from the playoffs by the Colts because Brady was throwing to the likes of Reche Caldwell, Troy Brown, Doug Gabriel, Chad Jackson and Gaffney.
Ultimately, the 2012 season will likely decide Welker's fate; if the other wideouts on the roster play well (not to mention the tight ends), Welker could be expendable. If the unit struggles, Welker could end up back in Foxboro.
As for why Welker signed his franchise tender instead of sitting out OTAs, something he had previously hinted at, he told the Boston Herald, “[Organized team activities] are about to start. The team's all getting together. You get all these months off and everything else. I don't know, you're just kind of bored. You want to be up on the field. If they see me out there at OTAs and minicamps and everything else, and I'm still out there winning and doing what I need to do to help the team win, you know what, the ball's in their court to make something happen. That's kind of my mind-set. To go out and show them I deserve it.''
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