When Wes Welker met with the media on Thursday for the first time since he and the Patriots failed to come to an agreement on a contract extension, he said all the right things.
And Patriots fans breathed a sigh of relief.
You should feel fine about Welker’s situation, but not because he put on a happy face.
Never believe anything a player says about his contract, unless he just signed a huge deal, or he actually decides to be honest and say he’s not happy and will hold out.
Everybody else has no credibility. Players never tell the truth because they fear repercussions from fans and/or the team.
That’s why they hire agents to do the complaining for them privately, or in the ear of a media member.
So, never believe anything a player says about a contract (or much of anything else).
Before we close the book on Welker’s contract situation for 2012 — and this will be it until the offseason — we have a few misconceptions we want to clear up since we didn’t have a chance to weigh in when the deadline passed.
No. 1: “This is going to affect Welker this season.”
Wrong. Yes, Welker felt he deserved a contract extension, and still does. And he should. You want players to perform on and off the field, and honor their contracts. Welker could not have done anything better. His numbers speak for themselves, as do his work ethic and standing on the team. Welker is exactly what an NFL player should be. He just didn’t get the extension he wanted. But it’s not going to affect him. Welker knows he has to have a great season if he’s to get an extension from whichever team. He has incentive to be the same player he has always been.
No. 2: “Welker wanted to be paid like Calvin Johnson.”
Those of you who believe that Welker demanded to be paid $15 million per season please raise your hand. Now beat yourself with said hand. You really believed that? Shame on you. Welker was looking for a modest contract, something at least three years at $18 million guaranteed with a chance to make more if he continued to play at a high level. The Patriots didn’t want to do that. New England wanted Welker to take a deal that would pay him less than Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Stevie Johnson. Why would Welker ever agree to that when none of those players comes close to his level?
No. 3: “Welker should have taken whatever the Patriots were offering.”
Why? For the fans? Fans don’t pay an athlete when he’s 65. Welker is 31 and because he was undrafted (and played for the Dolphins), he has never seen a payday commensurate with his production level. Remember, when the Patriots acquired Welker from the Dolphins, they did so after floating that they were prepared to sign Welker to a big offer sheet (seven years, $38.5 million) as a restricted free agent. Instead, the Dolphins decided to pick up an extra late pick from the Patriots and just traded him. That meant Welker’s market power was gone, and he essentially had to sign a deal worth much less — five years, $18.1 million — than a possible offer sheet. Great work by the Patriots getting Welker for much cheaper than market value, but not a great situation for Welker. He’s still waiting for a contract extension since becoming the game’s most productive receiver. How many more years do you think Welker has to maximize his value? Not many. These next two years are it, and now one is lost. Welker has to get his after the 2012 season. Why? Players should get what they can when they can. No one’s going to care when they’re 45.
No. 4: “The Patriots are to blame.”
Blame for what? That Welker won’t finish his career as a Patriot? Stinks for the fans, but this is just further reinforcement that the NFL is purely a business. The Patriots basically used Welker the previous five years — taking his best seasons and then not rewarding him — but that’s the business. I don’t fault them for that. Bill Belichick described both Welker and tight end Aaron Hernandez on Friday as inside receivers. Which player would you rather lock up right now? Obviously it’s Hernandez, whose athletic ability will translate to a full-time slot position once Welker is gone. Will Hernandez’s durability allow that? Big question. One thing to keep in mind: Since Belichick has started to become ruthless with contract extensions (shipping out guys such as Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel, and Deion Branch 1.0), the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl. Not sure what that says, but it’s the truth.
No. 5: “The Patriots made a smart economic decision. Make Welker earn it.”
Had a few e-mailers say that because Welker was looking for the two-year franchise tag total of $21 million, the Patriots are smartly making him earn it in two installments instead of up front. This couldn’t be more wrong. Welker never asked for that money.
Furthermore, the Patriots would be making a beyond dumb salary cap decision if they were going to pay Welker more in two years than he wanted over three or four. An extension would have cut his salary cap number in half the next two seasons and allowed the team to cut bait after two seasons when the cap is going to go up.
No. 6: “Welker is playing his final season for the Patriots.”
Provided he’s healthy and is around 100 catches, I don’t see how Welker returns. If the Patriots were going to use the tag ($11.4 million) again, they would have saved money by signing him for cheaper money now. Either the Patriots let Welker walk after this season, or they tag and trade him to keep him out of the hands of a division rival (namely the Jets). The big losers are Patriots fans, but at least in those scenarios the Patriots get one more chance at a title with Welker this season, and then Welker finally gets his payday, albeit from another team. The Patriots move on with Hernandez in the slot, Welker gets the financial security he’s due, and everyone lives happily ever after.
That’s fair to both sides. That’s the business.
It’s never too early to look to the 2013 draft, especially with college practices set to open.
To give us a rough guide as to what to look for, we were able to come across the initial rankings from both the National and BLESTO scouting services for rising seniors (no underclassmen). They both are paid by most NFL teams and given a scout to use to scour the country for talent. It was started decades ago by teams to help share the cost of scouting, and it’s still used in some form. The Patriots are one of a handful of teams not to participate in either service. They prefer to do their own work.
Still, even the teams involved don’t put huge stock into the reports. They basically compare notes. But services are used to compile the list for the scouting combine, and it’s normal to look at the data for trends.
National is considered the more respected of the two, and it seems wide receiver, defensive tackle, and safety are the three strongest positions in the ’13 draft, with 15, 13, and 11 players ranked in the top 100, respectively.
Guard (four), quarterback (three), and defensive tackle (three) have the most players ranked in the top 20.
Here are the top 10 for each service:
National: Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal; Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama; Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina; Jonathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia; Shawn Williams, SS, Georgia; Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina; Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina; Kawann Short, DT, Purdue; (tie) Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama and T.J. McDonald, FS, Southern Cal.
BLESTO: Khaled Holmes, C, Southern Cal; Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah; Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall; and then the following players had the same rating: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas; Jenkins; Sanders Cummings, CB, Georgia; Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois; Williams; Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame; Barkley.
Boston College has four players ranked: tackle John Wetzel (11th National; 65th BLESTO), tight end Chris Pantale (95/81), defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey (94/127) and offensive tackle Emmett Cleary (96/269). UConn has five: defensive back Blidi Wreh-Wilson (59/28), receiver Michael Smith (244/92), end Trevardo Williams (122/130), outside linebacker Sio Moore (154/198), and cornerback Dwayne Gratz (123/279). UMass guard Stephane Milhim was ranked 311 and 141, and New Hampshire defensive tackle Jared Smith came in at 108 and 148.
The Jets and coach Rex Ryan aren’t the only AFC East team putting out some strong words. Bills general manager Buddy Nix set the tone for his team’s third training camp under him.
And not just because Buffalo added pass-rushing ends Mario Williams (Texans) and Mark Anderson (Patriots).
“Obviously, the offseason acquisitions helped, but I still think it was time for us,” Nix said. “If we had not gotten Mario and Mark, it would have still been time to start winning some games. We’ve done some things right, I think, and we’ve probably made some mistakes along the way. But it’s time to close it out and win some games, and until we do, it is not complete.
“I believe losing and not being in contention throughout the year will be a huge disappointment, for all of us, anyway.”
Note to Ryan: That’s how you send your team a message without making other teams angry with false bravado.
Nix is right. It’s time for the “Baby Bills” to grow up. Nix has revamped the roster and it’s good enough to compete.
The Bills were a cute story last season when they started 3-0, including a 34-31 win over the Patriots when New England basically gave the game away with dropped passes, interceptions, and horrendous tackling.
The Bills won just three of their last 13 games. Yes, injuries were mostly to blame, but that can’t be an excuse this time.
“I do think we are realistic enough to know that the first year or two we did not have enough depth and enough playmakers to make a difference and probably contend all the way through the year,” Nix said. “But I think the feeling is different now and I think we do [have a must-win attitude].
“We have good depth at most positions. The one place I am a little concerned is our depth at safety. We’ve got three guys and we would like to have four that can play, but other than that I think we are pretty deep.”
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams said the team knows this is an important camp.
“We have to be very clear about where we want to go,” he said. “We have good players, but things can look good on paper but they [sometimes] do not pan out on the field. Things do not pan out on the field unless you lay it on the line here in training camp. When you get here, you get to work and you put the kind of work in that you need to get in to be successful.”
1. The Steelers signed receiver Antonio Brown to a big extension after Mike Wallace balked at their offer. Wallace may be on the trade block, but don’t dream too much about him coming to the Patriots. Pittsburgh won’t want to face him, and a trading team would have to give up picks and a big contract. Plus, who even knows if Wallace can grasp the Patriots’ offense?
2. Can’t imagine team president Mike Holmgren will last very long once the Browns are sold to Jimmy Haslam. Rumors are that Boston native Joe Banner, the former president of the Eagles, would be part of the group, and has told people he wants to build another team. You’d think Banner would take over for Holmgren at some point and get his own people in there.
3. Hoping that word of the decision by Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey to fine players $10,000 for talking about injuries — which may not be allowed under the collective bargaining agreement — doesn’t reach Bill Belichick. Then again, the Patriots do just fine in that department.
4. Packers president Mark Murphy probably heard from the NFL office for saying he “couldn’t support” a move to an 18-game schedule for safety reasons. That’s still on the back burner, but the league probably doesn’t want that talk out there. It could be revived down the road.
5. Enough with the “Jets may use Tim Tebow to do X” stories. We’re waiting for the next breathless report telling us the Jets are contemplating using Tebow to monitor Rex Ryan’s weight loss.
Waltham native and former Bentley standout Mackenzy Bernadeau said he should return soon after having offseason hip surgery. “I’m getting closer every day. I’m getting better every day,” the expected starter at right guard for the Cowboys told reporters. “The leg’s a little stronger. I’m pushing it more and being more active. I’m feeling good. I can’t wait to get in pads and go at it. When that will be, we don’t know. But I’m feeling great.” . . . The string of bad luck for former Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu continued last week when the King Philip graduate saw his season wiped out by a torn pectoral muscle before Falcons camp even started. Tatupu was unsigned in 2011 after having both knees scoped. Tatupu, 29, was attempting a comeback but will now have to wait until 2013 . . . Don’t know if we’ve seen this before, but the Packers have a new time clock that makes noise and flashes light 2.5 seconds after each snap. “For the offense and the protection unit, to have a clear indication when you’re potentially transitioning into a scrambling phase, it’s something we always try to emphasize in practice in as many different ways as possible,” said coach Mike McCarthy. “And on the other side of the ball, it’s a time clock for the pass rush and the pressure unit, a time clock to get to the quarterback and also an indicator for pass coverage to stay alive in a transition when you get beyond 2.4 or 2.5 seconds.”Greg A. Bedard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.