This news might've raised the eyebrow of Gronkowski's pass-catching colleague, Wes Welker, who has been seeking a new long-term deal in New England himself. Does Welker have the right to be upset and could this jeopardize chemistry in the Patriots' locker room?
Welker understands football biz, won't have issue with buddy cashing inWes Welker is a pro's pro. Even though frustration crept in when he received the franchise tag instead of a new deal, the Patriots receiver sucked it up and signed it. He understands the business and knows it was the right thing to do for a 31-year-old. I expect more of the same after teammate Rob Gronkowski's $54 million extension. Welker should know the truth -- that his contract has nothing to do with that of a much younger weapon who is among the best in the game at a position that is hard to fill.
Gronk and Welker are buddies and their lockers are right next to each other. I expect zero animosity, save for the fact that Welker will likely make Gronkowski buy when they are out.
Welker knows he is in a completely different situation than GronkowskiWes Welker would have no right to be upset. Rob Gronkowski is the best young player at his position in the league. He's probably the best player at his position in the league -- period.
The Patriots now have Gronkowski under contract through 2019. They're essentially getting him at $55 million over eight years, which is a win-win deal for both sides. Welker can't be happy about his situation, but he doesn't live in Gronk Nation. Welker knows this. Their situations are completely different.
Welker has right to be angry, given his track record in New EnglandWes Welker has a right to be annoyed by the Patriots giving a contract extension to any player with two years left on his rookie contract.
Without knowledge of what the team is offering and the amount with which Welker's representatives are countering, it's difficult to assign blame to either side in their stalled negotiations. But it's rare for a team to rip up a rookie deal this early, even for a talent like Rob Gronkowski. Welker's missed a total of three games in five seasons with the Patriots, averaging 111 catches and six touchdowns per year.
He is now 31 years old, but relies more on guile and toughness than pure speed to make his impact in the team's prolific offense. Thus, it seems reasonable for Welker to request a contract that would assume he has at least three more productive years in him.
Welker gave up his leverage; Pats wise to lock up Gronk nowWes Welker should not be upset about the Patriots' decision to extend Rob Gronkowski. When Welker decided to sign the franchise tag, he gave up his leverage to force the Patriots into a long-term deal. Although a deal could still be in the works, he knows he has a year of guaranteed money in place and could net a big deal on the open market following a strong 2012 campaign.
From the Patriots' perspective, it is a sound business decision to lock up Gronkowski with a long-term deal. The market price for tight ends will soon shoot through the roof with so many young talents at the position (Jimmy Graham, Jermichael Finley and Jermaine Gresham, to name a few) on the verge of free agency. The Patriots are making a cost-effective move by paying above market rate today for a contract that will likely be a bargain in a few years. The Philadelphia Eagles have done this for years, and the Patriots are wise to steal a page from their financial playbook to secure one of the top offensive weapons for a long time.
Gronk could excel in any system; Welker plays a specialized roleBased on similar situations I have dealt with, I don't think there will be any problems in the Patriots' locker room. When you have a strong coach in Bill Belichick and a good character player in Wes Welker, you don't usually have chemistry issues.
The bottom line is these are two separate negotiations. Rob Gronkowski is a young, emerging star at his position in a different price range. Welker is a unique player who has to be used as a slot receiver or put in motion to be effective. Gronkowski can play in any system and be a Pro Bowl player. Welker can't. That's how I would respond if Welker's agent came to me complaining about this development.
Things would be different had Welker caught pass late in Super Bowl XLVIWes Welker can be upset all he wants, but the message is pretty clear: He can either play for the Patriots or not -- it's up to him.
True, he's 31, but Welker has at least two or three more elite-type years left. But he's nearing expendability as the team refines its offensive approach. Two star tight ends and now a big-play threat outside in Brandon Lloyd. Danny Woodhead could slide into Welker's role if need be. Remember New England's unofficial motto: Everyone's replaceable except Brady.
That being said, I betcha things would be different had Welker caught that pass late in the fourth quarter that would have essentially clinched Super Bowl XLVI for the Patriots. Sometimes it's hard to really push to have a guy back when he fails to make a play that huge in the playoffs.
Whether Welker likes it or not, this is life in the NFLAssuming it's true what they say about misery loving company, Wes Welker won't feel lonely if he's emotionally wounded by New England's sense of priorities. This is the way NFL teams -- the smart and successful ones, anyway -- have been operating in the salary-capped 21st century.
Based on their track record, it's unusual for the Patriots' front office to make a new deal this early with Rob Gronkowski (whose rookie contract wasn't up until after 2013), but most perennially successful, stable franchises (see: Giants, Packers, Steelers) concentrate their loot on players who they've drafted and developed when those players are up for their second professional deal. In other words, good teams lock up their own guys who are just entering their prime. Those teams do not typically throw sizable long-term deals at players who've played through that second deal and are now on the wrong side of 30.
It may seem disloyal, soulless and altogether antithetical to a sport that preaches team unity ... but that's a conversation for another time. If Welker doesn't like it, he can play out this year with the Pats' franchise tag, then allow himself to be lavished with offers from any number of ever-desperate teams who'll overspend for his over-the-hill services (see: Cardinals, Redskins, Raiders ...).
History indicates Patriots run a bottom-line businessWelker certainly has the right to be upset. That said, everyone who plays for the Patriots knows how the club does business. The New England organization, and specifically Bill Belichick, have always handled these situations in a bottom line manner. A lot of us remember all the grumblings when team captain Lawyer Milloy was cut back in 2003. For many, it was the first glimpse of the Belichick way. Since then, the organization has always entered a bottom line of "risk versus reward" with every player this side of Tom Brady. Super Bowl hero Deion Branch went through this when the team told him to go find a trade partner in 2006, because he wasn't going to get paid in New England.
There shouldn't be any division in the locker room. Welker knows as well as anyone how the club handles its roster and finances. Perhaps the practical thought process that Osi Umenyiora has taken applies here, as the Giants defensive end recently admitted he understands the front office can't pay three Pro Bowl defensive ends like they deserve. Welker's teammates surely feel for his situation, but pro football is a business, and if there is any team where there is no doubt that it's run like a business, it's the New England Patriots.