Let’s go over the facts, people. Willie McGinest use to play linebacker for the Patriots (from 1994 – 2005). He did so pretty well at that. Now, he’s joined the ranks of other former-player-talking-heads on sports networks who like to espouse on the happenings of those still in the game.
Wes Welker is the unsigned receiver who was designated the franchise tag by the Pats in February after the two parties failed to come to terms on a new deal. The tag is worth about $9 million, which is roughly half of what Welker made, in total, on his last contract.
Welker hasn’t signed the tag. Nor did he report to minicamps last week, nor does he intend to report to mandatory camps when they begin. Welker has until July to make his intentions known; he’ll either sign the tag and play or not sign it and not play, for the Pats or anyone else. Or the two sides may finally find common ground and bang out a deal, but that seems unlikely at this point.
Yesterday, McGinest took to NFL Network with some harsh words for Welker. First off, McGinest “doesn’t like the diva attitude” Welker is displaying
“Let’s keep it real,” he continued. “Prior to the Patriots, this is a guy who played three years, had 96 receptions, never had a 1,000-yard season. This $9 million-plus that they’re offering is half of his last contract. That’s a lot of money. Let’s not forget that they signed Brandon Lloyd, they signed (WR Anthony Gonzalez), they signed (WR Deion) Branch back, they got the two tight ends; they have weapons on that offense. So look, Wes, it’s time to take off the leopard printed cowboy books, get off the party tour and get back to work.”
Welker took to Twitter to respond to McGinest; he asked why McGinest ever left the Patriots to play for the Cleveland Browns. Willie jumped ship from the Pats in 2006 to finish his career in Cleveland. Because they were willing to pay him more money than New England was.
I guess what McGinest is implying here is that if it weren’t for the Patriots, Welker would not be the juggernaut receiver that is he now.
During his two seasons in Miami, unless Welker was playing against the Pats, he wasn’t phenomenal. He had 96 receptions for 1,121 yards. His first two years in New England, he had 223 catches for 2,340 yards. That’s a sizable difference, brought about by the fact the Pats immediately made Welker and Randy Moss the focus of the offense. Welker thrived in the system Josh McDaniels was running and he proved himself to be an elite receiver during the team’s undefeated 2007 regular season.
The Pats brought out something in Welker the Dolphins and the Chargers never did. They saw some level of potential in him that had been ignored and they gave him the opportunity to show how great he was.
Does that mean Welker owes the organization something? Does he owe Mr. Kraft or Bill Belichick or Tom Brady or anyone else? No matter how good the system, the player is still the player. It’s his talent, no matter how much the Pats helped nurture it.
To those of us on the outside, athletes arguing over millions of dollars always seems insane. How many of us would sign a one-year, nine million dollar contract in our jobs if we could? Especially when, technically, we’d only have to work 5 months to get that much cash?
There are two factors at play here. The first is market value. Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson just signed an 8-year, $132-million contract. Johnson has had three 1,000 yard seasons since debuting for the Lions in 2007; Welker has had four over the same span. They are both game-changing receivers, the focus of their offenses and the safety net for their quarterbacks.
The difference? Johnson was the second pick in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft. Welker was not drafted.
And that, my friends, is the way this business works. It’s why the draft means as much as it does. Because where you are drafted will haunt you the rest of your career, unless you’re a quarterback (they have their own set of rules entirely).
Will the Patriots give Welker a deal like Johnson’s? I’m going to say no. Would another team? Well, the Redskins signed Albert Haynesworth to a $100 million deal not long ago. So it’s probable.
And Welker knows that.
And he wants to be paid what he believes he’s worth.
The issue here is what, if anything, he owes the Patriots. How much of a hometown discount should he be willing to take to not only stay with the team who contributed to making him what he has become but play for a team that’s in constant contention? Could a player as competitive as Welker really play for a team like the Browns, who haven’t been a real threat since…ever?
There is a price you pay to play in New England. If Welker decides not to accept that, it doesn’t make him a diva, it makes him a businessman. As athletes, players have to look out for themselves because teams rarely will.
Simply put, Welker has to do him.