Remember when we were all chomping at the bit for Free Agency to start and couldn't wait for some real, actual football news?
Well, lesson learned.
Wes Welker is now a Bronco and Danny Amendola is now a Patriot. To say that it's a hot button issue would be giving hot buttons way more credit than they deserve. And after reading through some articles and a lot of the comments on the message boards, it seems that most Patriots fans fall into one of two categories. In the first category we have those who are rendered completely speechless by what has just transpired, unable to comprehend why in the world the Patriots would possibly be willing to spend $31 million on Danny Amendola when they could have held onto Wes Welker for significantly less money. They see Amendola as a massive question mark with limited upside, whereas Welker was a proven commodity that was guaranteed to produce year in and year out. No matter how you spin it, these fans think that the Patriots just made a huge mistake and took a massive risk, and good luck trying to convince them otherwise.
The second category of fans aren't doing cartwheels over Welker's release, but they are fairly happy that New England brought Amendola into the mix. They see a younger, faster wideout who has had a decent amount of success playing in St. Louis despite seeing limited time on a fairly weak offense. Yes, Welker will be missed, but since he clearly wasn't in New England's long-term plans anyway, it's great that they were able to infuse the receiving corps with youth and a receiver that brings his own unique skillset to the Patriots offense.
Which category you fall into is up to you, and odds are that you'll be in that category until about Week 7 of the 2013 season. But there are points to be made for each side, so I thought I'd take a stab at looking at both sides of the coin. Below are some of the more common arguments I've heard regarding the Wes Welker/Danny Amendola situation, and my thoughts on each.
Point: There's simply no way that Amendola will be able to match Welker's production.
Any way you slice it, Danny Amendola is no Wes Welker. Amendola may be a little taller, a little faster, and a little shiftier than Welker, but when it comes to reading defenses, running routes, and having impeccable timing with Tom Brady, Welker is second to none in the National Football League. No matter what Amendola brings to the table, he won't be catching 100 balls a year and creating huge first downs out of nothing. There is going to be a huge hole in the Patriots offense next season.
Counterpoint: The Patriots aren't looking for someone to match Welker's production.
You can argue the point all day, but the bottom line is that if the Patriots wanted someone who could match Welker's production, they simply would have brought back Welker. I'd like to think that Amendola offers a new wrinkle to what I believe will be a fairly revamped offensive scheme, and he will be highly productive in his own way. He may not have 100 catches in 2013, but I don't think he will be asked to do that. Comparing Amendola the Patriot to Wes Welker the Patriot is both unfair and a flawed way to approach the transaction; they may be similar players, but they aren't exactly the same, and they will end up performing different duties in what I believe will be two different philosophical approaches to scoring points.
Point: Amendola is injury prone.
Amendola broke his collarbone in Week 5 of last year and only played in eight games in 2012. He also injured his heel last year and spent most of the second half of the season in a walking boot. He only has one full 16 game season under his belt in four years in the league. Wes Welker, on the other hand, is indestructible. He has taken hit after hit after hit, and he always bounces right back up. Other than that ACL injury, which ultimately only cost him one game, Wes Welker has been on the field for each and every play. The Broncos will be laughing all the way to the playoffs when Wes Welker records his 50th catch of the season the same week Amendola goes on IR with a shoulder injury.
Counterpoint: Wes Welker is old.
Wes Welker is about as far from injury prone as it gets. But he's also a 32 year old receiver who has spent the last six years getting absolutely brutalized all over the field. There is simply only so much of that a player can take before it starts to take its toll on the body. While some players slowly decline in ability, others seem to fall off a cliff completely; there's simply no telling what will happen with any given player until the season starts. There's a good chance that Welker will motor along as he always has this season, but there's also a chance that the thinner air and another season of wear on his body will cause him to lose a step in 2013 and he won't be as effective. It's basically risking Amendola's injury history against Welker's age and amount of bodily harm he has taken. The Patriots thought that Amendola's youth was enough to sway the risk away from Welker, so that's the direction they went in.
Point: The Patriots could have had Wes Welker for very little money, but they didn't do it. Now he's a Denver Bronco and there's nothing we can do about it.
Wes Welker gave the Patriots every opportunity to resign him. He was never anything but a consummate professional who backed up his desire for a big payday with great seasons each and every year. He listened to New England's offer, tested the market, got a better offer elsewhere, and then when back to the Patriots in order to give them a chance to give him a better one. They didn't, so he walked. There is absolutely nobody to blame but the Patriots for this one. Usually the moves they make are questionable, but there is some kind of logic behind it that will allow me to see where they are trying to go. Well not this time. This time their strict adherence to the market value and the Patriot Way cost them their most prolific receiver of all time, and just made the Denver Broncos virtually unstoppable., This is going to go down as one of the bigger gaffes of Belichick's tenure.
Counterpoint: If the Patriots had wanted to keep Welker, he would still be a Patriot right now.
This is the biggest point for me right now. The simple fact remains that Wes Welker was not in New England's long term future, and the offer he received reflected that. The Patriots could easily have offered him enough money to keep him around without breaking the bank, but they didn't. They flat out didn't. That means that they didn't really care whether he stayed or went. I guarantee that if Wes Welker was a Panther right now on a 2 year, $12 million dollar contract, the overall vibe around here would be very different. But since he went to Denver, the whole thing seems much, much worse than it is. When a player isn't in a team's long-term future, more often than not it's for a reason. Those who think that the Patriots made a huge mistake here by not signing Welker are more than entitled to their opinion, but they certainly don't have history on their side. Very few players have left the Patriots only to be more successful with their new teams. And while I think that Welker is going to absolutely light it up in Denver, I don't think that whatever the Patriots do to compensate for losing him is going to fall short or that the Patriots offense will struggle without Welker or that now that Welker's gone the Patriots suddenly won't make the playoffs. I wish Welker were still here, but he isn't, and he isn't by design. I'd MUCH rather have this scenario than learn that he was suddenly poached by the Broncos last minute after a deal seemed to be in place. Amendola is the first of what is likely to be several signings that give Tom Brady plenty of weapons at his disposal, and I think that the overall dropoff in offense between last year and this year will be negligible. And even if it is, and the Patriots are only the 8th highest scoring team in the league, I still have them down for 12 wins and a deep playoff run. And that's all I really care about.