Whenever the Broncos make a big move, there's always debate. Was drafting Tim Tebow in the first round an unbelievably stupid decision? (There's still plenty of disagreement about this one.) Was paying huge money to Peyton Manning right after neck surgery an unnecessary risk? (It's worked out pretty well so far.) So it's no surprise Broncos fanatics are divided on yesterday's acquisition of receiver Wes Welker from the New England. Was it an incredible coup? Or a waste of $12 million? Let's look at the pros and cons.
No question about Welker's productivity over the six years. His season reception totals are absolutely jaw-dropping: 112 in 2007, 111 in 2008, 123 in 2009, 86 in 2010 (slacker!), 122 in 2011 and 118 last year. Moreover, he averaged more than ten yards per catch and 1,000 yards overall in five of those six campaigns, and the lowest number of touchdowns he registered for a year was three.
So why the hell did New England let a guy like this slip away? And why didn't every other team in the NFL back a Brinks truck up to his house and invite him to take away as much cash as he could carry?
Let's start with that first question, and several statements of fact about Patriots coach Bill Belichick . For one thing, he's an asshole. An incredibly successful, Hall of Fame-bound asshole, but an asshole nonetheless. Moreover, he runs the squad with an iron fist, and an iron sphincter to match. If he has a sense of humor, it'd take an electron microscope to find it -- and last season, Welker got on Belichick's bad side.
How? We're not sure, and given Belichick's legendary aptitude when it comes to secret-keeping and flat-out lying, it's doubtful we'll ever know for certain. But during early games in 2012, Welker became a relative afterthought in the Pats offense, sculpted in part by reviled former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels. That changed in part because of injuries to other pass catchers, including Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman. Rather than simply being grateful that he was being noticed again, however, Welker commented about it publicly, saying after grabbing thirteen pigskins during a shellacking of your Broncos that it was "kind of nice to stick it in Bill's face once in a while."
Welker subsequently insisted he'd been joking. But Belichick doesn't joke. In fact, it probably took all the intestinal fortitude he could muster not to order that Welker be shotgunned, gangland style.
More recently, Pats quarterback Tom Brady restructured his contract to free up more money for other players -- and many observers figured a main reason for his doing so was to give the team the chance to keep Welker, who was becoming a free agent. Instead, Belichick let Welker twist in the wind until John Elway and the Broncos cut him down.
There doesn't appear to have been much competition for his services from other squads, and that makes sense. Welker isn't as big, fast or skilled as many of the premier receivers in the league, and his success is widely regarded to have been as a result of Brady's talents, not his own. The supposition: Once he was no longer on the other end of TB's passes, he'd be revealed as mighty ordinary.
Continue for more about the Wes Welker acquisition, including a video. But there's one problem with this supposition: He'll now be playing with Manning, who has the same ability to make other players better that Brady does. Look at the difference between Broncos receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker from the Tebow "era" to now. And as witnessed by the success of Reggie Wayne when he and Peyton were members of the Indianapolis Colts, he loves targets who can make big catches when the need arises but thrive on snagging receptions in the middle of the field and moving the chains.
Sure, Welker will be 32 on May 1, but his stats haven't tailed off yet, and the Broncos are only on the hook for two years at a relatively modest price tag by NFL diva standards. And given Manning's age, those couple of seasons will be the ones in which he has the best chance to win a championship in orange.
If the combo works -- and we're optimistic it will -- Denver sports fans may some day liken the deal to the one that brought goaltender Patrick Roy to the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, after a similar fallout with his then-coach. As you'll remember, the Montreal Canadiens' ice general, Mario Tremblay, humiliated Roy by leaving him in net for an 11-1 blowout loss, after which Patrick demanded a trade -- and promptly led the Avs to a Stanley Cup title.
Granted, Welker won't play as big a role with the Broncos as Roy did with the Avs. But Denver wasn't far away from the Super Bowl last year -- and his addition puts the team that much closer.
By the way, just before the announcement yesterday, Welker tweeted the following:
How i spent the last few months.. facebook.com/video/video.ph...
— Wes Welker (@WesWelker) March 14, 2013
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Here's the clip in question, which shows him interviewing for a job -- with Bonk Breaker, an energy bar company. Expect to see WW in more local spots like this soon. After all, now that he's not under Belichick's thumb, it'll no longer be seen as a character flaw to do something funny.
More from our Sports archive: "Peyton Manning: Top Ten things non-sports fans should know about him."