Welker makes a funny

900599.jpg

Welker makes a funny

And just like that, Wes Welker is second in the NFL in receptions. He's seventh in total targets (only five out of second place). He's once again established himself as Tom Brady's favorite receiver and helped restore order to the Patriots offense.

Then he did this, and in the process turned that entire first paragraph into a secondary storyline on this Monday afternoon.

I know a lot of people out there are angry that Welker's quote "Yeah, it's kind of nice to stick it in Bill's face once in a while." is a story at all. They think that this post, and everything like it is just "media generated nonsense," "an insult to journalism" and every other complaint that we hear every time something like this makes headlines.

And there's some validity to that.

Obviously, if Welker had said what he said last night, and then no one in the media mentioned it again, there wouldn't be an issue. But come on, that's not reality. You know that. And more importantly, Welker knows that. When he makes a joke at his coach's expense especially after all that's happened between them over the first month of the season he knows what's going to happen. He's well aware that the media will run with it, strangle it and beat it into the ground until another storyline presents itself.

But who cares about the media, the bigger question is: What does Belichick think?

Naturally, he was asked about the comments during today's press conference, and as he was, part of me hoped that the coach would just shrug it off. It's rare that Belichick shows his sense of humor during the season, but he's know to deliver a good jab. And this was the perfect opportunity:

"Hey, coach. Any comment on what Wes said last night on TV?"

"Yeah, yeah. I saw it. He might want to go back and have those hair plugs loosened. I think it's cutting off the circulation to his brain."

Everyone would have laughed. We all could have moved on.

Instead, Belichick claimed that he didn't "really see the comment," and then added the dreaded: "You should ask him what he meant by it."

That's Belispeak for: "I know exactly what you're talking about, but you're crazy if you think I'm sharing my thoughts with you guys. Why don't you go ask Wes, I've already instructed him how to answer."

And here's hoping Welker follows orders, there are no further disciplinary actions and this whole story flies away. There's too much other positive Welker conversation that should be occupying our attention.

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

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.