Why the Patriots Made a Mistake Letting Welker Walk

Marc FreshmanContributor IMarch 16, 2013

The notion of Danny Amendola signing with the Patriots isn't new. The concept started floating around last year while Wes Welker was negotiating his contract for the 2012 season. The negotiation wasn't going very well, so fans and analysts began spitballing alternatives.

I can recall my friends endorsing the notion, saying to me: "Amendola and Welker are basically the same player, the Patriots can swap him in without losing a step."

But I never bought that assertion. Made no sense to me. Welker was coming off a 2011 season with 122 receptions for 1,569 yards, while Amendola played one game and had five receptions for 45 yards. Welker was already one of the most accomplished receivers of his generation and Amendola wasn't.

If there were similarities to be detected, I wasn't seeing them.

Still though, my friends kept pitching it to me: "No no, listen man. They're both Texas Tech guys. They're both undrafted underdogs with similar run tendencies, same quick burst and same change of direction skills. They both pick up yards after the catch and have the same body size. They're the same guy."

I'd just roll my eyes and hoped that the Patriots would ignore the chatter. Fortunately, the Patriots did just that. Welker signed a one-year contract to stay in New England for the 2012 season and Amendola stuck with the Rams. It all seemed to be going my way. 

But now, one year later, everything's upside down. Welker's out, Amendola's in.

What the heck happened here?

This whole "Welker-Amendola tablecloth trick" was meant to be harmless gossip, scuttlebutt, small talk, yakking, chit-chat, theoretical conversation and an amusing "what if" banter to pass the time.

But now, that crazy banter has come to fruition. To what extent the banter helped shape reality, I can't say for sure. I only know that a really bad concept has come to life. Had I known these rumors would be taken to heart, I would've started one that said Mike Wallace would look good in Patriots blue.   

This Welker-Amendola swap is a bad idea. It was a bad idea when it was floated around as a vague hypothesis, and it's a bad idea now that it's happened.

What are the Patriots without their best receiver? How does that make sense? Because Welker's 31 years old? Because he's just a slot receiver and not a deep threat? 

I've got news for you: Broncos fans aren't excited because they got a "plain Jane" slot receiver who's 31 years old. They're excited because they got Wesley Carter Welker, future Hall of Famer and Tom Brady's best receiver. That's why they're psyched.

And to be honest, they should be psyched. They just got one of the most important players in the game.

Their gain is my nostalgia, pain and anger.

What happened here?

It's as if the Patriots pulled an Indiana Jones-type of switch by swapping out a golden idol and replacing it with a bag of sand. Am I supposed to pretend that I didn't see the swap? Am I supposed to be convinced that sand has the same value as gold?   

Welker's coming off a 2012 campaign in which he accumulated 118 receptions for 1,354 yards. In that same season, Amendola had 63 receptions for 666 yards. These guys are interchangeable? How?

My friends are now telling me, "Don't worry, Welker was a nobody when he came over from the Dolphins and then he became a great receiver with the Patriots. The same thing will happen with Amendola."

Yeah, I suppose that's a possibility. Key word: Possibility. What about the facts?

The facts are all on Denver's side. It's a fact that Welker's one of the best receivers in the league. It's a fact that he's an elite superstar. It's a fact that any team is lucky to have him. It's a fact that his new quarterback is Peyton Manning. It's a fact that Welker will make the Broncos better.

The only "possibilities" here are with Amendola and the Patriots. It's a possibility that Amendola will blossom. It's a possibility that he'll stay healthy. It's a possibility that the Patriots will be better with him than with Welker.

But at the end of the day, these are just vague possibilities, which seem to be ingrained more in hope rather than evidence.

Furthermore, it seems to me that the better part of any faith in Amendola has less to do with Amendola and more to do with New England's talent for molding guys into superstars. In other words: faith in the system, not in the man.

But at this point, I'm not so sure that I can put my full faith into the system. I'm too hurt. I can't walk around like a robot and parrot the words, "in Bill I trust, in Bill I trust, in Bill I trust."

In Bill, I'm frustrated.

Football is a game played by flawed men and complex emotions play a huge role in what happens on the field. I can't put blind faith into a system that treats this like math or science, neglecting the human element in favor of some rigid definition of value.

And really, what sort of "definition of value" results in the team's best offensive weapon winding up in the hands of a dreaded rival? What sort of "definition of value" forces me to question the judgement of the system?

I believe in the Patriots as a team and as a culture, but their system tries my patience. The system pushes me to the brink, commanding my loyalty when it deserves my skepticism.

I cannot pretend to agree with this decision to let Welker walk.

I can't and I won't.


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