Welker's future in doubt
If a rising tide truly lifts all boats, then the
cost for the Patriots to reach a long-term deal with franchised
receiver Wes Welker went up quite a bit in the first few days of free
While the Pro Bowl receiver was last heard from
expressing on Twitter his happiness at the idea of staying in New
England for 2012 under the team's $9.515 million franchise tender,
seemingly every other free-agent wide receiver spent the first few days
of free agency inking huge money long-term contracts.
Vincent Jackson went to Tampa Bay on a five-year
deal for over $55 million. Pierre Garcon got five years and $42 million
from the Redskins. Marques Colston stayed in New Orleans for another
five years and $40 million. DeSean Jackson, who'd been franchised by
the Eagles, reached a five-year, $50 million deal to stay in
Philadelphia. Calvin Johnson signed an eight-year deal worth more than
$130 million to stay the centerpiece of the Detroit offense.
All these deals for the top wide receivers on the
free-agent market were met with speculation in New England that every
contract increased the amount it was going to take to get Tom Brady's
favorite target signed beyond the franchise tag. The idea was that
Welker, who reportedly turned down the Patriots two-year, fully
guaranteed $16 million offer during the season, was worth as much or
more than these other receivers given the fact that he caught more
passes over the last five seasons (554) than any player in the NFL.
But there is a major difference between Welker and
the guys getting the big coin in free agency - his birth certificate.
Welker will be 31 years old on May 1, putting him on the wrong side of
the key NFL age of 30.
Jackson was the oldest of the receivers to get big
deals early in free agency, and he's two years younger than Welker. Not
to mention the added detail that Jackson is a traditional more highly
valued No. 1, big-play outside receiver rather than a slot machine like
In fact, looking at the contracts signed of late,
maybe the more comparable number would be the three-year, $17.5 million
deal that 33-year-old Reggie Wayne got to return to Indianapolis.
The bottom line with Welker is that while he's
been arguably the best, most consistent pass catcher in the game in his
five seasons in New England, it wouldn't be good NFL business to
overpay him now for what he's done in the past. So while he may look on
from afar drooling at the contracts that guys with less production are
getting to open free agency, there is little that No. 83 can do about
Welker was underpaid on his last contract. But
that is water under the bridge.
Even with all the big money being thrown around to
younger receivers in free agency, Welker's situation remains somewhat
unchanged. He's limited by the franchise tag. He's limited by his age.
He's limited in that the Patriots rarely set the bar at a position for
any player, certainly not a player who's past the prime of his career.
So Welker's true market value is probably
somewhere between the deal that Jackson got and the one that Wayne
received. That's probably a four-year deal worth somewhere between $32
and $36 million with about half of it guaranteed.
If Welker is willing to sign such a deal, the
Patriots probably would oblige him. If he has dreams of getting the $40
or $50 million that all the other, younger receivers seem to be getting
then he's probably going to be disappointed.
That's the simple reality of the business of the
NFL, where a rising tide of big money contracts may not in fact lift
Patriots add receivers in busy Saturday
--The Patriots added two receivers in a busy fifth
day of free agency, agreeing to deals with Brandon Lloyd and Anthony Gonzalez.
Lloyd signed a three-year, $12 million deal after
making no secret of his desire to join the Patriots. Lloyd also had
interest from the Dolphins and 49ers but didn't make much of an effort
to return to the Rams, where he spent the second half of last season
following a trade deadline swap that sent him to St. Louis from the
Lloyd had 147 catches for 2,414 yards in the last
two seasons, including his Pro Bowl breakout season with the Broncos in
2010. That offense was directed by then-head coach Josh McDaniels, who
now works for the Patriots.
Gonzalez, a first-round pick of the Colts in 2007,
has largely been limited by injuries and fell behind the likes of
Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon with Indianapolis. He's a precision
route-runner with good straight-line speed but is unproven after
playing just 11 games the last three seasons. If healthy, the 6-0
Gonzalez could be a fit in the slot.
Lloyd isn't a blazer, but he runs very good routes
and has incredible hands, body control and the quickness to shake
blanket coverage. He's also 6-0, but isn't short on confidence, one
reason he's been with six teams since he was a fourth-round pick out of
Illinois in 2003.
The additions likely mean bad news for Chad
Ochocinco's bid to return to the Patriots.
Fanene A Big Addition
--DL Jonathan Fanene is the biggest name and body
of New England's free-agent activity so far. The former Bengals backup
reached a three-year deal worth $12 million that included a $3.85
million signing bonus despite not making a visit to the team. Fanene
actually reached the deal while spending time with his family in his
native American Samoa.
Fanene has played in 71 games with 17 starts since
the Bengals drafted him in the seventh round out of Utah in 2005. The
6-4, 292-pounder had a career-high 6.5 sacks in 16 games (two starts)
last season. He also had six sacks in 2009.
Fanene adds depth and versatility to a New England
defensive line that had gotten a bit thin on the depth chart behind Pro
Bowler Vince Wilfork. He could fill a role as a guy who could play both
end and tackle in three- and four-man fronts, as well as serve as a
situational interior pass rusher. It's the type of role that Mike Wright had filled with the team until concussion issues sidelined him
in recent years and forced his release earlier this offseason.
Koutouvides Re-Signed Under The Radar
--Linebacker Niko Koutouvides re-signed with the
Patriots prior to the start of free agency. The eight-year veteran
played in eight games with one start in New England after signing with
the team last Nov. 9. He notched eight tackles on defense, with another
nine and a fumble recovery in special teams action. Koutouvides deal is
for one year at the veteran minimum of $825,000.
Hoyer Availabe, For a Price
--Quarterback Brian Hoyer was tendered at a
second-round level as a restricted free agent, a tender offer worth
$1.927 million for Tom Brady's three-year backup. The former undrafted
free agent saw action in three games last season, completing his only
pass attempt for 22 yards.
Hoyer has now played in 13 games over his three
seasons. He's attempted 43 passes with 27 completions for 286 yards
with one touchdown and one interception.
Some reports have indicated that he might draw
interest and potentially a restricted free agent offer sheet from a
team looking for a starting quarterback to develop.
--Safety LaRon Landry has reportedly scheduled a
visit to New England. The free-agent safety spent the previous five
seasons with the Redskins after the team selected him with the sixth
overall pick in 2007 out of LSU. Landry missed eight games last season
with an Achilles injury and seven the year before.
Reports have indicated that New England's AFC East
rival, the New York Jets, are also interested in Landry. The Bears,
Lions and Eagles are also reportedly looking into signing the beefy big
hitter whose Hulk-like flexing biceps photos have been a hot topic of
late on the internet.
Patriots Add Safety
--Safety Steve Gregory, a free agent from the Chargers,
visited Gillette Stadium March 14 and signed a three-year deal the next
day. Gregory has played in 85 games with 31 starts. He evolved from a
special teamer to a versatile defensive back with the ability to cover
in the slot.
Green-Ellis Moving On?
--Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was scheduled to make a
free-agent visit to Cincinnati. The 2010 1,000-yard rusher led the
Patriots with 11 rushing touchdowns in 2011, but was an overall
disappointment on the ground with a team-best 667 yards on just a
3.7-yard average. Green-Ellis' claim to fame is that he has never
fumbled in his four NFL seasons since joining New England as an
undrafted rookie out of Mississippi.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a beast." - Patriots
defensive back Devin McCourty on Twitter in reference to new defensive
line teammate Jonathan Fanene.