Step away from the ledge, Patriots fans (and “objective” media members), this was the right move by the New England Patriots. There are so many reasons why the Patriots went the route that they did, and if you look at their history, specifically the last 12 years, it was obvious this was coming down the path. I attempted to warn everyone, but people just didn’t want to hear it. One thing I was taught at a young age was to not root for the player, but root for the uniform; if you get attached to the players, you will feel nothing but heartache. Although this may be impossible for some, it is my recommendation if you are plan on remaining a fan during this day and age of free agency.
Yes, I was angry when Ty Law went to the Jets in 2005 (10 INT) but the reason for my anger was more about Law’ remaining ability and talent not being in New England, and to this day I say that move was a mistake. On the flip side, 90% of the players the Patriots let walk or trade are not as productive after they go. Is Wes Welker going to be on the same level as Law? I can hear the Welker fans reading this screaming “yes”, and from a production standpoint, it will appear that Welker is scorching the Patriots because he will probably have between 900 and 1100 yards next season. The thing to keep in mind is this; the Patriots replace production on offense, as they have proven. Now flip that to the scenario to the defensive side, watch the Patriots secondary since letting Law walk, and you see my point.
I want to present a hypothetical situation to everyone that might help them realize why the Pats made this decision. Let’s say you have a player, in any sport, and he is going to be 32 when the season begins. You know of another player that wants to play for your team, who will be 27 when the season begins; he is two inches taller, faster, and has already proven to replace this same player during their amateur careers with no drop off. Also, due to player B having more size, he has more ability to do things than player A (not to mention player A having a 12.9 % drop rate compared to player B’s 1.9%) and the cherry on top- they make the same amount of money. So here is the question; what would you HONESTLY do in this situation?
When the Patriots traded for Welker in 2007, they traded for a young, talented slot receiver that hadn’t really been given the chance to blossom. He killed the Patriots in 2006, and although Miami used him, they didn’t use him the way the Patriots did when they landed him. Welker had 29 and 67 catches in the two seasons before coming to New England, while Amendola, in the three seasons he has played, 2009, 2010, 2012 (he missed 15 games in 2011, getting hurt in the 1st game) had 43, 85, and 63 catches respectively. When you look at the numbers, Amendola has been more productive to this point of his career than Welker was when he was 27, so if anything, Amendola could be an upgrade over Welker.
Here is the other major issue to keep in mind- Welker is a 32 year old (in May), 5’9 slot receiver who has taken some big hits over his career. Once a player is over the age over 30, in any professional sport, it can be a crapshoot every year. Welker is at that age when people lose a step, and when small guys in the NFL lose a step, it’s over. Nobody was knocking down Welker’ door with anything more than a two year deal, so that is also telling as to what other NFL executives believe.
If you want to compare Welker to another productive 5’9 receiver, take a look at Ernest Givins, a former wide receiver for the Houston Oilers who played the slot in the run and shoot. Givins didn’t have the 100 catch seasons like Welker, in part due to the stable of receivers Houston had for Warren Moon during those run and shoot days, but Givins was the engine in that offense, similar to Welker in New England’s system. Givins was productive until he was 30, and within two years, he lost a step, was let go to Jacksonville, and that was the end of his career. Wide receivers that are smaller in the NFL need their speed and quickness, it is their only advantage. Players like Welker and former Oiler Givins aren’t going to be able to change up their game and rely on their height the way players like Randy Moss or other taller outside receivers can when they lose a step.
I know it is hard for fans to let go of a guy they rooted for during the best offensive run maybe in the history of the game, but the truth is Patriot fans will forget all about this the day they see Danny Amendola has 17 catches for 185 yards and a game winning touchdown. Trust what the Patriots are doing with their receivers and especially Welker, they want to win another Super Bowl and these are the decisions that have to be made to take this team to the next level.
*Statistics Provided by ProFootballReference.com
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