Curran: Welker extension - or lack thereof - a minor deal

721562.jpg

Curran: Welker extension - or lack thereof - a minor deal

Would it be nice if, by 4 p.m. Monday, Wes Welker posted a cute little "Sticking around for the long-term, WOOT, WOOT! PatriotsNation" entry on Twitter.

Sure.

Even though Welker was nicely compensated from 2007 through 2011 (18 million), he's been a relative NFL bargain compared to his wide receiver peers. A different kind of receiver than Calvin and Andre Johnson? Yes. But while not a game-breaker on their level, he is every bit the headache for defenses that they are.

He's played hurt, absorbed absurd levels of punishment, and returned quickly from serious injury. Great guy in the locker room, trusted friend and teammate of the best player the Patriots franchise will ever have, what's not to like?

Beyond all that, the Patriots -- when guaranteeing Welker his 9.5 million salary for 2012 -- pledged to work to give Welker what he believed he deserved. A long(er) term agreement.

The day the team franchised Welker, their statement was, "Wes Welker is a remarkable football player for our team and has been a vital component to our offense and special teams since we traded for him in 2007. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal."Wes remains a contractual priority and we are hopeful that he will remain a Patriot for years to come."The extra time the two sides bought has been wasted. Sources have told me there have been no realistic proposals that approached the money Welker was looking for (a figure north of 20 million over the next two seasons).

The Patriots floated Welker a two-year, 16 million proposal last fall and haven't moved far from that.

And unless things change drastically from where they were Sunday afternoon, there will be no deal.

Welker could have been a pain in the ass about being franchised. He could have held out into training camp. Instead, he signed early and said on Twitter "I love the game and I love my teammates! Hopefully doing the right thing gets the right results. leapoffaith"

Have the Patriots "done the right thing"? Business-wise, probably.

If Welker plays well and stays healthy this year, they can just franchise him again next year and he'll get more than 11 million and will be paid for two franchised seasons about what he's looking for now.

And the Patriots will be off the hook if his leg falls off this year or his production falls off the table. Neither scenario is likely.

In terms of employee relations, the Patriots are hard-lining another deserving player, making him sweat and causing unnecessary agitation and mistrust.

To which they would likely say, "So?" The Patriots have taken PR hits before and been harangued for being cheap by bleeding heart media and fans. And they still come out smiling and hoisting trophies.

Welker's here for 2012. What's he gonna do, drape a "Patriots Unfair to Slot Receivers" sign around his neck and picket the sidelines?

The deadline will likely come and go, we'll ask Welker at training camp if he's upset he didn't get a long-term deal, he'll say he's moving on and so will we.

Personally, I feel it's the wrong thing to do. But on the grand scale of injustice we'll see on the planet today, it's less than a speck.

Malcom Brown already considered a leader for Patriots in second year

patriots_malcom_brown_121315.jpg

Malcom Brown already considered a leader for Patriots in second year

FOXBORO -- Late last year, Bill Belichick went out of his way to explain just how far then-rookie defensive lineman Malcom Brown had progressed over the course of his first professional season. 

From the sounds of it, the first-round defensive tackle's on-the-field growth was atypical. 

"I think he’s really come on through the season, which isn’t always the case with first-year players," Belichick said on Dec. 30. "It took him a while to get to that point through training camp and the early part of the season, but he’s become much better and more consistent in every phase of the game – running game, passing game, play recognition, communication, adjustments – just everything. It seems like every week he just builds on it.

"He’s really hit a good slope, good incline. He’s worked hard. There is a lot on every rookie’s plate. There’s a lot on his plate as a rookie in the different situations that he plays in and the number of things that we do on the front, so it’s not easy, but he’s improved his techniques, his fundamental play and he’s improved his communication and overall understanding of the multiples that are involved. It’s been good."

Brown finished the year as the Patriots interior defensive lineman with the most snaps played (his 517 snaps trailed only Jabaal Sheard, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich among defensive linemen), and he established himself as a trustworthy option in the team's steady rotation on the interior of its front. 

According to one of Brown's newest teammates, free-agent acquisition Terrance Knighton, Brown is now serving as a leader on the interior of the defensive line. Though he's only in his second season, Brown's understanding of the Patriots defense gives him a leg up on players who may have more experience in the league but are new to New England. 

"Malcom Brown has basically been leading the group," Knighton said after an OTA practice last Thursday. "Being in his second year, he's probably the most experienced guy in it right now as far as this team. I'm picking his brain to see how things are done around here."

 

Knighton acknowledged that once the Patriots have Alan Branch back on the field -- Branch was one of 17 players missing from Thursday's OTA -- they'll get another player with a sound understanding of the defense. But right now, Brown is looked to as a source of information for veterans like Knighton and Markus Kuhn as well as rookie fourth-rounder Vincent Valentine. 

"Young guy, obviously played at a high level last year and you can tell he's feeding off of that," Knighton said of Brown. "He's only continued, from what I've seen on tape to now. That's one of the things I try to talk to about with the young guys is being on the up, and not going up and down in your career. That's something I've been through in my career so I just try to share knowledge and help guys out."

Brown, who turned 22 in February, certainly ended last season "on the up." In the early going this offseason, it seems as though he's on track to continue that trajectory.

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

snc_butler_0530161464560931088_3450k_1280x720_695203907893.jpg

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear.