Welker's other piece of leverage


Welker's other piece of leverage

By now, you've heard the story of Wes Welker, the Patriots receiver who took a leap of faith and landed in a pile of poo. Or so it seems.

According to Welker, negotiations for a long term deal have gotten worse since he signed his franchise tender. This is a development that surprises no one, seeing how Welker's decision was met with almost universal confusion. The major question being: Why did he just piss away his only leverage?

The answer was, and is, that Welker loves football. He loves being a part of the team. He believes that if he does the right thing, the Patriots will follow suit and everyone will live happily ever after. So, far that's not the case.

But in our rush to declare Welker's leverage dead and buried, I think there's one major trump card that's being overlooked.

A 6-4, fashion maven with gooey, slicked back hair, a pension for Brazilian delicacies and three shiny Super Bowl rings. Of course, I'm talking about Lonnie Paxton.

Nah. Tom Brady. Welker's best bud. The guy who's spent the off-season as publicly attached to Welker as he's been to any teammate over more than a decade in Foxboro. The pair and just as importantly, their families have been seen vacationing in Costa Rica and partying at the Kentucky Derby. They're the rich man's Romo and Witten. At this point, they're much more than teammates. They're brothers. And brothers gotta hug, man.

Now, I know what you're thinking: Shut up. It's a business. Friendships don't matter.

And that might be true. And believe me, I'm not saying that the Patriots' treatment of Welker would or will reflect poorly in Brady's play. This isn't Rondo and Perk. Brady's been there. He's used to it. He's jaded. Over that last 12 years, he's said goodbye to more friends and teammates than most players ever meet. A few weeks ago, he said goodbye to Matt Light. In a few months, he'll say goodbye to Kevin Faulk. And who knows? Maybe even Deion Branch. Brady knows this is a business and can separate himself from the BS. If he couldn't, he wouldn't be here anymore.

But there's something about his relationship with Welker that just feels different. There's a bond on and off the field, that seems especially important. Take a look again at the last paragraph. The fact that pretty much everyone that Brady came in with has now moved on. Consider the fact that as he gets older, and the rest of team gets younger, it will become increasingly difficult for him to relate, be apart of the team and feel like he has any connection or anything in common with the guys he shares a locker room with.

You don't think he could use a friend? You don't think he wants one? You don't think that, in Wes Welker, he's found a guy who he can connect with on a special level and has granted access to a part of his life that's kept closed to almost everyone else. And as cruel and heartless as Belichick might be, you don't think he finds it important to keep Brady happy?

When you throw in the fact that between the lines in terms of production, a commitment to winning and willingness to put everything on the line in the name of the team Wes Welker is just about everything you can ever ask for in a player, it just makes sense that these two sides will eventually find a common ground and have a happy and healthy future.

If not, the world and the team will go on. It always does. But when we talk about Welker's leverage, I don't think we can overlook the obvious: That even if he only has one other guy on his side, that guy just happens to be the most important player in Patriots franchise history.

You could do a lot worse.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Ratto: Kaepernick controversy touches on hot-button issues in an ugly political year

Ratto: Kaepernick controversy touches on hot-button issues in an ugly political year

Ray Ratto joins Chevrolet SportsNet Central to discuss Colin Kaepernick's decision to not stand during the national anthem before the San Francisco 49ers preseason game.

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Bill Belichick was expansive Saturday when asked on a conference call how he'll split the quarterback reps for the Patriots final preseason game Thursday in New York.

"I think that’s a good question, it’s a fair question, it’s one that we really have to give some good consideration to," Belichick began. "As I said before, I think whatever we do will benefit whoever does it. We want to get Jimmy [Garoppolo] ready for the Arizona game. Tom [Brady] isn’t going to be playing for a while, so it’s kind of his last chance to play until he comes back after a few weeks. Jacoby [Brissett] certainly could use all the playing time that he can get. I think that whichever players we play will benefit from it and it will be valuable to them. We could play all three quarterbacks a lot next week and they’d all benefit from that and it would all be good, but we can’t."

Since they can't, Belichick said there will be situational work done with whoever isn't going to get the game reps.

"We only have one game and so many snaps, so we’ll have to, between practice and the game, put them in some situations that are somewhat controllable like a two-minute situation or things like that that you know are going to kind of come up one way or another," said Belichick. "You can sort of control those in how you want those broken down, what’s best, what does each guy need and how can we get the best we need for each guy. I need to let them get the reps that they need, but it’s how do we get the team ready for what they need to be ready for. They all need to get ready for different things.

What Jimmy’s role is in a couple weeks is going to be a lot different than what Tom’s is, and it’s going to be a lot different than what Jacoby’s is. At some point later on, those roles are going to change again. So again, there’s no perfect solution to it. We’ll just do the best we can to try to have our individual players and our team as well prepared as possible at whatever point that is that we have to deal with, and whenever those situations come up."

As I wrote earlier today, this is the sticky and uncomfortable situation arising from Deflategate. It's not a Tom Brady penalty. It's a team penalty when one considers the ripple effects. And there's no handbook to consult.


Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension


Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

The Patriots have signed backup linebacker and special teamer Jonathan Freeny to a two-year contract extension through 2018, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported.

Freeney, 27, was originally signed by the Patriots to a one-year free-agent deal in March 2015 after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins. He then earned a one-year extension last September and played 13 games, seven starts, with 50 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. 

"Jonathan is a very dependable player," Bill Belichick said on a conference call Saturday. "He is able to do a lot of different roles for us. He can play inside, outside, on the line of scrimmage and off the ball defensively. He has been a very valuable player for us in the kicking game, obviously with some size, a four-phase special teams player.

"He is one of our overall top workers in terms of the offseason program, preparation, training. He always does things right. He works hard, doesn't really say a lot, but is very dependable and consistent. I think everybody in the organization looks up to him."