Jan 20, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and wide receiver Wes Welker (83) react after a fourth down incompletion in the fourth quarter of the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Capricious Welker: Be careful not to drop this ball

Dude, make up your mind?

Wes Welker is playing a dangerous game with his career in New England, and if he’s not careful his time will be up in Foxboro…and it may already be.

Now if Welker doesn’t play ball, not only will he be playing for another team, but also he will become the scourge of New England, the guy that dropped the ball – not once in the Super Bowl, not a second time in last season’s AFC title game, but a third time when his friend restructured his own contract to give the team room to negotiate with him.

That is about as figuratively dropping the ball as you can get…and it’s slipping through his fingers.

The argument isn’t whether or not he is a great receiver – there is no debate, he is perhaps the best slot receiver to ever play the game.  The argument isn’t whether he deserves and has earned the right to seek the best possible deal in free agency, because he has.

The argument is that the back and forth, cat and mouse, capricious game that he’s playing with the Patriots is forcing them to plan to move on without him, because otherwise they would be handcuffed and not able to get the most out of free agency nor the draft if they didn’t.

And nobody, not Welker, not Logan Mankins, not Vince Wilfork, not even Brady will dictate to Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick what they can or can not do with their franchise, and anyone who thinks they can hasn’t been paying attention…

…so why is Welker playing this game?  Only he and his agent know for sure, but it belongs on the playground, not in the really real adult world of business.  He acts like he’s owed something, but the truth of the matter is that he’s been paid for his work – he signed a contract, both sides lived up to the language of the deal and the only thing Welker is owed is the right to see if the field turf is greener somewhere else.

The Patriots tried to pay him last off-season.  Welker wouldn’t accept it, so instead of being handcuffed by ambiguity, the Patriots tagged him with the Franchise Player designation that paid him very handsomely with the promise that they would work towards a long-term deal at the end of the season.

Welker responded by first being open to negotiations, then leaking stories of feeling disrespected by the franchise, but willing to negotiate with them anyway – and now by saying that he will not sign with the Patriots until he sees what else is out there…

…which is fine, he’s earned the right, but the Patriots apparently have tired of his game and are ready to move forward without him, themselves leaking a report that they will sign Rams’ receiver Danny Amendola the second that free agency period begins on Tuesday afternoon.

No one really knows if this is just gamesmanship on the part of the Patriots or if this is just speculation, but the fact remains that if the Patriots weren’t ready to move on without their All Pro slot receiver, there would be no speculation at all.

One thing is certain, however:  The Patriots will not be held hostage.

The ball is in the air and headed toward you, Wes Welker.  The fan base and Patriots’ management have been willing to forgive two dropped balls in the most clutch of situations, though the memory will never die.

But if you drop this one, the only way you’ll see Foxboro again is through the windows of the team bus taking your new team to Gillette Stadium, where you will be preparing to play the powerful Patriots from the visitor’s locker room…

…and I wouldn’t be expecting that they’ll ever forgive you for dropping this ball.

Tags: New England Patriots Tom Brady Wes Welker

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