FOXBORO -- Before the 2010 season, Tom Brady's contract was a huge issue. The best quarterback in football was entering the final year of his deal. Having blown out his knee in the 2008 opener, everybody was aware that Brady's football mortality was just a play away. If he got seriously hurt in 2010 without a new deal, he'd be damaged goods on the open market. The negotiations were a mudwrestle, though, and there was bitterness that it had to be that hard.
Ultimately, the Patriots got Brady signed just days before the opener. Coincidentally - and ironically - the quarterback was involved in a car accident on the morning of the day the agreement was finallyreached. Patriots owner Robert Kraft did allude to the accident as a catalyst for doing the right thing by Brady. "We have a saying that out of bad things good things can happen if managed properly. It put in perspective everything we're doing," RobertKraft said. "We're very, very lucky. Patriot Nation is lucky he had his seat belt on."Wes Welker is in a situation similar to Brady's. He blew out a knee in the final game of 2009 and he's very good. Welker's on a five-season statistical run that is as impressive at the wideout position as anything any player has ever done. But there are key differences with Welker. He's already in the final season of his deal and playing without a financial net if he gets twisted around. He's made a fraction of what Brady's made in this league. And if he gets blown up, the market for a twice-damaged receiver on the wrong side of 30 will be a lot drier than it would have been for Brady had he gotten hurt without a deal. Despite the apparent risk Welker's playing under, he told me on Tuesday he's keeping the issue out of his mind. "I mean, I've been doing this for a long time," he said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can to help the team."I have agents that take care of that part of things for me and to tell you the truth I take no part in any of it," Welker also said. "I don't want to talk about it, I don't really want to be involved with it I just want them to do their job and I'll do mine and at the end of the day, I'm not worried about it at all."OnMonday, Welker joked on the Dan Patrick Show that he's "about the 40th highest paid receiver in the league." He was quick to transition away from contract talk when Patrick asked a follow-up. Welker's agent is David Dunn, the man who once wrung a 103 million deal for Drew Bledsoe from the Patriots (New England played it smart with options in the Bledsoe deal that kept it from getting fleeced completely by Dwoo). Unlike the rancorous negotiations with Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins, and the impatience that was just below the surface with Brady, Welker hasn't slipped once in toeing the company line. Neither has Dunn. As a result, we know nothing of where things stand in negotiations other than some seemingly knowing proclamations by both Rodney Harrison and Michael Irvin that Welker's "not going anywhere."SoWelker chugs along with 41 more receptions than Chad Ochocinco (who will pull down 2 million more than Welker this year) and leaves the indignation to anyone who wants to pay attention to what's going on.