So the Patriots and Wes Welker are about on the same wavelength with a contract as Chad Ochocinco was with the playbook last season.
They’re not close.
Welker took his frustrations over the state of negotiations - which have only regressed since the Patriots offered two years at $16 million guaranteed before last season - public in comments to the Boston Herald last week.
The Patriots did not react kindly to having their affairs aired that way. Big bulletin there. They never have and never will. And so what? These things happen in negotiations.
The sides can still come to an agreement.
If Logan Mankins can say he didn’t feel the Patriots were keeping their word to him, demand a trade, not sign his tender, have that tender reduced, sit out seven games, and then end up getting an overly generous extension, then surely Welker and the Patriots can find their way through this rough patch.
And here’s how they need to do it.
The Patriots are reluctant to give a 31-year-old, 5-foot-9-inch, 185-pound slot receiver a lot of guaranteed money.
If you take Welker the person out of the equation, and just look at the player - he has 650 catches and 7,226 yards of mileage, and had ACL surgery in 2010 - then you can understand why the Patriots aren’t tripping over themselves to give him the guaranteed money he wants.
They need to get over it.
Welker is one of those rare players who has consistently busted through any defensive box that opponents have tried to put around him. It’s what makes him special, and has to be a consideration. You can’t simply say, “Interior receivers over 30 aren’t a good investment.’’ Welker is the exception, and not even close to the rule. Bill Belichick knows this.
“Wes really trains hard,’’ Belichick said in the leadup to last season’s AFC Championship game. “He’s one of our hardest workers; just really tireless guy. He pushes himself to the limit on a daily basis, whether it’s lifting weights, practicing; he practices 100 miles an hour, trains very hard. He’s very strong for his size and stature but he actually has good playing strength. Nutrition, all those things, he’s really borderline fanatical about them. He gets the most out of everything he’s got. We all saw how he came back from the injury a couple of years ago. I think that’s just indicative of his overall work ethic and commitment.’’
Welker is a darned good football player. Go ask any defensive coordinator. To suggest that his success is the product of Tom Brady and the system shows disrespect for Welker.
The Patriots couldn’t cover him when he was with the Dolphins so they traded for him. Nobody else can cover Welker, either. Not only did he catch 111 passes from Matt Cassel in 2008 when Brady was injured, but we’re talking about a guy who managed 67 receptions with the 2006 Dolphins when Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, and Cleo Lemon were throwing to him.
It’s not a leap of faith to say that Welker could catch 80 passes rolling out of bed with an average quarterback in any system.
Conventional wisdom says Welker ceded any leverage to the Patriots when he signed his franchise tag. It probably didn’t help, but the Patriots knew he wasn’t going to miss games.
Here’s the flip side. What happens if Welker puts up great numbers again in 2012, which is not a stretch? What happens if the other receivers the Patriots have (five are over 30 and not the workout freaks that Welker is) don’t instill confidence for 2013? Who isn’t going to want Welker back?
The Patriots will be in a position where they’ll have to consider the franchise tag again - at over $11 million - or expose Welker to their divisional rivals, and Welker would still be a free agent in 2014.
People will be asking, “Couldn’t the Patriots have had Welker for three or four years at that same price?’’
In other words, incentives are still there for both sides to come to an agreement.
The terms should be these:
Four years, to spread out the cap exposure, with a total value of $40 million, of which $18 million is guaranteed the first two seasons.
Base salaries would be $5 million each season with an $8 million signing bonus.
If Welker is so confident in his abilities and wants more that second season to match what a second tag would have paid him, then put in another $2 million in incentives for, say, reaching 90 catches.
That puts him at $20 million for two years, which is basically the tag the next two years. And the Patriots still have him for two more.
Put in $5 million in incentives each of the final two seasons. If Welker wants to be a $10 million receiver at 33 and 34, then he can go earn his money. He won’t have a problem with that.
The cap hit each season would be $7 million without incentives. That’s a cap savings of $6.9 million the next two seasons.
In the worst case scenario, if Welker lasts only two years, then the Patriots will owe $4 million spread out over two years on the cap.
What exactly is the downside for the Patriots? Welker probably wants more up-front money, but the Patriots aren’t going to do that. They have too many contracts coming up. So Welker needs to be flexible.
This way, Welker gets the guaranteed money he wants and the Patriots get protection if things don’t work out.
Just get it done.
Andruzzi helps cause for Patriots and charity
“We’ve got Rob and Rob joining us this year, so it’s a little different for us,’’ Andruzzi said. “They’ve been to the events and know what we’re about. Two great guys that want to reach out and help.’’
Several other current and former Patriots are expected to attend, and they all might be coming straight from Gillette Stadium, because Andruzzi is once again helping out with the offseason strength program.
“It’s a great program by strength coach Harold Nash to help these guys get ready for a tough, grueling season,’’ said Andruzzi.
One player Andruzzi has been putting through the paces is lineman Marcus Cannon. They have a bit of a bond because they battled through different types of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Cannon’s was discovered during the combine last year, and he returned to play for the Patriots last season.
“Marcus is still a young guy,’’ said Andruzzi. “It’s his first offseason. Heck, he’s basically still coming off his treatment since he was on PUP last year.
“I’m sure he had some remnants [of the treatment] but he was able to help out the team and play. Hopefully he has a great, long football career ahead of him. He is strong, moves real well for a big guy. I see a lot of upside to him.
“Hopefully he’ll be joining forces with us. He’s got a great story and can really inspire children and even adults to move forward and listen to their bodies, go to the doctors and get checked. He can really help raise awareness with his whole process.’’
The Andruzzi Foundation provides assistance for patients and their families dealing with cancer and funds pediatric brain cancer research.
The tournament includes a reception and dinner where a live auction will be conducted. The public can bid on silent auction items online. For more information, go to joeandruzzifoundation.org.
Story of struggle has reward for Blackmon
The Cranston, R.I., native and Bishop Hendricken product surprised many - including coach Tom Coughlin - by showing up at the event, as Blackmon is currently a free agent.
“I haven’t seen anybody since the Super Bowl, so it was pretty special, man,’’ Blackmon said. “Coughlin lit up a little bit because I hadn’t seen him the whole night. It was pretty cool.’’
It was a heartfelt moment for Blackmon, who went through a lot to receive that ring.
After being a fourth-round pick of the Packers in 2006, he had his first two seasons cut short by injury. After being healthy in ’08, Blackmon tore his ACL in ’09. He came back the following season but his knee wasn’t right and he was released before the Packers embarked on their Super Bowl season.
He missed out on a ring with the Packers, but he got his own a year later with the Giants.
“I was really bummed out because I came in with that [Packers] crew and we fought together to get to that point,’’ he said. “I knew that year they were going. I could see something special in that training camp.
“I just happened to be blessed to go from one star organization to a really, really great organization.’’
Blackmon said the Giants took care of him as if he had been with them for 10 years.
“I owe everything to New York,’’ he said. “I went there and they noticed that my knee wasn’t completely healed and I didn’t get the proper rehab. They had me get it fixed and then monitored me the whole time. They revitalized my career.
“Regardless of how people feel about them with contracts and what they do, speaking for myself, they’re the best and they looked out for me huge.’’
Blackmon will train at home in California and prefers to sign in training camp so he can better pick his shot for the chance at another ring.
Hip surgery knocks Bernadeau off line
Brass tacks in Baltimore
Taunton native Eric DeCosta is further entrenched in the Ravens front office. After having his contract extended this year, DeCosta was promoted from director of player personnel to assistant general manager and is firmly in line to succeed Ozzie Newsome as general manager when the time comes. “As Eric continues to grow in the personnel department, he is becoming a vital part of the decision-making process,’’ Newsome said. Several teams, including the Bears and Raiders, showed interest in the 41-year-old DeCosta becoming their general manager. But he has demonstrated that he is just fine where he is.
1. The defamation lawsuit filed by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seems like a colossal waste of time and money. Even if it gets past the argument that Goodell’s action was a labor issue, Vilma still has to prove that Goodell knew the statements he made were false. Good luck with that.
2. Both Wes Welker and Drew Brees outperformed their contracts for some time, never said a word, and are now frustrated about negotiations. Just two more examples of why NFL players should use their leverage before it runs out and their age creeps up. Fans never say a peep when a team wants an underproducing player to cut his salary. You can’t have it both ways. Either both sides honor contracts or neither should be expected to.
3. ESPN had (and likely paid) NFL players Ray Lewis and Justin Tuck at its up-fronts to help sell programming to marketers and media planners. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that.
4. That was a very well-done gesture by Bill Belichick to quietly attend the private viewing of Junior Seau on the eve of rookie mini-camp.
5. I can understand why some people question coaches like Belichick who hire their sons (Mike Shanahan and Jeff Fisher, among others, did it long before him). The fathers probably would prefer that they make their own names, but after working such a demanding job and sacrificing family time, it’s hard to fault them for jumping at the chance to be around their kids every day.
It’s the offseason (what offseason?), so everybody runs crazy with lists, because apparently some people think civilization will cease to exist unless the NFL is talked about every single day. TheBigLead.com, a very good sports blog, named Robert Kraft first in its NFL owner rankings. “This one is a no-brainer,’’ wrote author Jason Lisk . . . University of New Hampshire end Brian McNally was signed by the Redskins as an undrafted free agent. The Cornwall, N.Y., native will play outside linebacker in Jim Haslett’s scheme. McNally left the Wildcats as their all-time leader in sacks (28.5) . . . Former Harvard offensive tackle Kevin Murphy has been in the pros less than a month, but he has been well-traveled. After getting offers from the Eagles, Colts, Vikings, and Jets, the two-time All-Ivy player chose to sign with San Francisco, near his hometown of San Clemente, Calif. The 49ers waived Murphy after rookie camp, and the Vikings, Lions, and Texans all put in claims. The Vikings were awarded Murphy because they had the worst record among the three in 2011. Then they waived Murphy two days later. So he will be on his third team before mini-camps even start. That’s almost unheard of, especially for a good prospect like Murphy. It could be that he’s dealing with some sort of injury. Teams are less patient early in the offseason with undrafted free agents when that happens . . . Luke Kuechly, the Panthers’ top pick out of Boston College, will begin his career at weak-side linebacker, which allows Jon Beason to keep his job for now . . . The Steelers are planning to start two rookies - left tackle Mike Adams and right guard David DeCastro - on the offensive line. Right tackle Willie Colon is moving to left guard, with Maurkice Pouncey (center) and Marcus Gilbert (right tackle) rounding out the unit. That’s the plan, at least for now. It’s not ideal to start two rookies, but considering how bad that line has been, could it get any worse? Adams is the one really on the spot. The Ohio State product has the tools, but does he have the intensity to protect Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side against the NFL’s top pass rushers? . . . Former Patriots defensive lineman Ty Warren, who has missed the past two seasons with injuries, is balking at a $2.5 million pay cut requested by the Broncos, according to the Denver Post.
Greg A. Bedard can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.