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.