Wes Welker probably is not as good as Carlton Fisk.
But he’s better than Kendrick Perkins.
And as was the case with Pudge and Perk, Welker’s departure is wildly unpopular here. The Patriots are putting “In Bill We Trust” to the ultimate test.
The Patriots don’t care. They are going to do what they are going to do. And as long as they win, they can tell their critics to go jump into Lake Quinsigamond.
They continued to be active Saturday, with the re-signing of Aqib Talib and the release of Brandon Lloyd. The team-building never stops. But regarding the controversial departure of Welker, there was more silence from the Gillette Stadium bunker.
We expect nothing else. This is the way it always is when the Patriots part ways with a popular player. Bill Belichick will never acknowledge that he opted for Danny Amendola over Wes Welker. He will never take a stand on this subject. This way, he can never be wrong. It is left to the rest of us to connect the dots, assign motivation, and mourn the departed.
Tom Brady won’t come out and complain. There will be no Tweets of anger or disrespect from QB 12. When the time comes, Brady will honor his contractual obligation with a radio station and tell us that he really liked Welker. But Brady will not tell us how he really feels. That’s what talk radio and newspaper columns are for.
Bob Kraft probably will still insist he really wanted Welker to be a Patriot for life. Swell. As always, the Krafts want us to know that theirs is a family operation and that the name matters and they really are different from the other NFL conglomerates. Anyone still buying this line no doubt sleeps in footie pajamas adorned with Pat Patriot logos.
Despite the usual non-remarks from the usual suspects, the Welker departure is different from all the other bloodless goodbyes in Foxborough over the years. Welker will not be booed when he appears at Gillette with Peyton Manning. He’s not going to be subjected to the nitwit behavior that marked the returns of Johnny Damon, Adam Vinatieri, and Ray Allen.
Welker is a hero in Patriot Nation. His move to the Broncos is not going to be viewed as a defection. Welker knew the Patriots were done with him. And he knew the Patriots wanted fans to think they were trying to bring him back. Welker was clutch, tough, and durable. He will return as a sympathetic figure, a good soldier who was wronged.
The loss of Welker did something no other move has done: It gave Patriot toadies a moment of pause. This time, even the loyalists are acknowledging the arrogance and hubris of the Patriot operation.
The Patriots love value. They love deals. They love getting a player for their price. They love being smarter than everyone else. And they are good at it. This is one of the reasons they are hated everywhere outside of New England.
They do not care. They win. They promote “next man up.’’ Everyone — except Brady — is expendable. It’s not about the players. It’s about the system. Even Matt Cassel can go 11-5 in this system.
The absence of sentiment has its advantages. You will never see the Patriots do what the Red Sox do. Remember when the Sox gave Curt Schilling a one-year, $8 million contract when there were no other bidders? It was a lifetime achievement award. Schilling had pitched well with an empty tank in 2007, so they re-upped him. A golden handshake. He never threw another pitch.
David Ortiz? Can you imagine the Patriots bidding against themselves and signing a wounded, 37-year-old guy to a two-year deal? When no other team was prepared to counter? The Sox paid for past performance. They paid to have a popular face sell tickets for a last-place team.
The Patriots would never do this.
Legions of Patriot fans note that the Patriots have usually been right when they say goodbye to a player. Ty Law, Asante Samuel, Willie McGinest, Ty Warren, David Givens, David Patten, Damien Woody, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis were all allowed to walk when their time came. Richard Seymour was traded when his demands grew too large. Lawyer Milloy was unceremoniously dumped. Then the Patriots went out and won a Super Bowl without him.
Amendola is younger than Welker. Our football guru, Greg Bedard, says Amendola can make opponents miss more than Welker. Bedard says Amendola can surpass Welker’s yards after the catch. The Patriots want to be “better on the edge.’’ They want to take their offense to the next level.
Cool. It should be fun to watch.
But we are also going to watch Brady carefully. He loved Welker, especially on third down. Did Brady restructure his deal so that the Patriots could cheap out on Welker?
Three decades ago, the Red Sox blundered when they allowed Fisk to walk to the White Sox. Fisk made the Red Sox look like dopes for the rest of his career. It took a long time for the Red Sox to recover.
The Red Sox let Pedro Martinez go after 2004 and they were right. They let Damon go after 2005 and they were wrong.
Danny Ainge altered the history of the 2011 Celtics when he dealt Perkins two years ago. The deal is still being debated.
Belichick has made his move, and it is bold. But it’ll be a national holiday for Patriot Haters if Welker wins a Super Bowl with Manning in Denver.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy