Well, that’s a way to shake free agency up. Wes Welker, as it was initially reported he might earlier in the day, reached a deal with the Broncos, ending his absurdly productive Patriots tenure – and beginning one in Denver that will almost assuredly result in numbers just as big, with Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. The deal is for two years and $12 million.
“Now,” you might think, “that Adam Schefter tweet you linked says ‘agreed to terms.’ Doesn’t that leave the possibility open that he might take the offer back to the Patriots and see if they’ll either match or exceed the offer?” Well, I thought the same thing. Word was Welker was going to give the Pats the last chance to keep him. But Schefter, right after his initial tweet, said this:
And there it is: what many in New England thought wouldn’t happen has. Wes Welker has left the Patriots. He’s a Bronco.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2013
First off: this is spectacular news for the Broncos. Welker’s name is synonymous with the position of “slot receiver” – because he does it better than anyone. In five out of his six seasons in New England, Welker caught at least 110 passes. Even in today’s pass-happy NFL, that figure hardly seems real. Manning already had several dependable targets in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and a cadre of tight ends, but now he has the league’s best safety valve on his side. This move seems to signal the Broncos going all-in on the “let Peyton pick teams apart with a barrage of short passes” strategy that worked so well last season, and there’s one better to help make that work than Welker.
And as good as this news is for the Broncos, it’s just as bad for the Pats. No matter how much success the team’s had replacing players who’ve moved on in the past, no matter how much of a role Tom Brady played in Welker’s success, no matter how damn good the Patriots are and continue to be… the guy just caught 672 passes in six seasons. You don’t throw it to a guy that often without being 100 percent sure he is damn good at his job. He won’t be doing that job for the Patriots anymore, and one has to wonder what Tom Brady, with his cap-friendly deal, is thinking right about now. Well, we have an idea…
Spoke to someone close to Tom Brady. Beyond enraged at contract details that netted Broncos Wes Welker. “Disgrace””disservice” were used.
— Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) March 13, 2013
What else could there be to this story? Was this really over a couple million bucks? It’s not like Welker doesn’t have plenty of football left in him – he’ll turn 32 on May 1, so the next two years should be some mix of “tail end of prime” and “maybe not quite prime anymore but still extremely capable.” Given Manning’s other targets, we’re not sure he’ll approach his lofty New England numbers in Denver, but he undoubtedly makes an extremely dangerous team even more so – and his departure makes one extremely dangerous team less so. We’re intrigued to see how the Pats respond to losing him… but more eager to see how Manning responds to having him. Thought the Broncos were tough last year? Good luck now, AFC.
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