Vinatieri case lends perspective to Welker situation

Vinatieri case lends perspective to Welker situation

March 6, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Wes Welker and the Patriots are going through a dance similar to the one Adam Vinatieri and the Patriots went through years ago.

(USA Today Sports)

When Adam Vinatieri started making free agent visits back in 2006, Colts president Bill Polian was skeptical.
Vinatieri, franchised by New England in 2005, was woven into the fabric of the Patriots.
“So what if he took a visit with Green Bay at the outset of free agency?” Polian thought. "He's just out there trying to getting numbers and -- when he’s done doing that -- he’ll go back to New England, show them the higher prices and he'll stay put when the Patriots ante up."

Being played by a kicker, in Polian’s mind, wasn’t worth making the rival Patriots spend a few extra bucks.
“I was very surprised Adam was looking at other teams," Polian said in August of 2006. “When I talked with his agent, I made one thing very clear. I like Mr. Kraft and Scott (Pioli), but I was not interested in being a stalking horse for the New England Patriots. I wasn't interested in driving up the price for them. But the agent told me, 'It's over with the Patriots.' That's when we got very interested.”
The interest turned into a fat new deal with the Colts. He got more there than he ever would have from New England. And, because he felt jerked around by the Pats, Vinatieri never gave New England a chance to match the Colts offer.
“The Patriots clearly expressed to me that it was a business by the decisions they made,” Vinatieri said at the time. “So I had to examine my options."
Well, Wes Welker was franchised by the Patriots last offseason. He’s seen the business end of the NFL plenty over the past few years.
So, despite the progress made this offseason in getting Welker to re-sign with the team -- progress we’ve consistently reported at Comcast Sportsnet during the past 10 days -- any offer Welker is seeing is the best offer the Patriots will extend before Welker hits free agency.
Unless and until there’s an imminent threat of Welker signing elsewhere, the Patriots are not compelled to look in the couch cushions for the last dime they can give him.
And, if you’re Welker, you probably want the Patriots to sweat a little. And the Patriots won’t sweat until they think Welker might leave.
Meanwhile, what team wants to spend precious time being -- to borrow a term from Polian -- a stalking horse for Welker?
Here’s what I know. On getting Welker’s name on the dotted line, there is “nothing imminent” I was told Tuesday night.
Are the two sides closer than they’ve ever been on getting something done? Yes. And I confirmed that after Ian Rapoport of blurbed on that last Monday before the Tom Brady deal trumped everything.
Is Adam Schefter’s report that Welker is going to test free agency accurate? Well, Welker’s reps David Dunn and Brian Murphy haven’t spoken to me on Welker this offseason, but I would absolutely trust Schefter to know exactly what the business plan is on Welker.
It’s damn likely Wes Welker will be playing for the Patriots in 2013. But if the Patriots think it’s a sure thing, do they have to dig as deeply as possible out of goodwill? Nope.
And that’s what this dance between now and the time Welker signs is all about.