|Santonio Holmes deal could provide framework for new Wes Welker contract||10.28.11 at 1:18 am ET|
So how much is Wes Welker worth?
The Patriots wide receiver, in the final season of a five-year, $18.5 million deal he signed in 2007, is having a salary run like few others the league has ever seen. Through six games, Welker leads the league in receptions (51), targets (74) and yards per game (130.8), and is second in the league in receiving yards (785). He’s just off the pace to shatter the league records for most catches, but can still break the record for most receiving yards in a season — at this rate, Welker will have 136 catches and 2,093 receiving yards.
Asked about his contract situation earlier in the season, he said it’s not his focus right now, clearly indicating that he wants to leave that up to his agent, David Dunn.
“Well, of course I want to stay here,” Welker said. “But as of right now, I don’t really think about it. I just try to focus on this year and everything I can do to help the team this year.”
So what kind of offer should he expect? Andrew Brandt has a unique perspective on situations like this one. He’s been on both sides of the table — he’s worked as a representative for ProServ and Woolf Associates, was GM of the Barcelona Dragons in the NFL’s World League and served as a team vice president of the Packers from 1999 to 2008, negotiating contracts and managing the team’s salary cap.
Brandt acknowledged the gold standard for wide receivers is the deal that was signed by Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald in August, who inked an eight-year, $128.5 million contract with the Cards shortly before the start of the regular season.
“Of the recent top-of-market wide receiver contracts, I think it is understood leaguewide that the Larry Fitzgerald contract is an outlier, an eye-popping deal that took advantage of the player’s great leverage in eliminating a franchise tag equation in the previous negotiation and coming off of the top wide receiver contract prior to this one,” said Brandt, who writes for the National Football Post and also serves as ESPN’s NFL Business Analyst.
While that’s out of the realm of possibility, Brandt believes there is a comparable deal people might be able to point toward as a possible framework. If Welker does reach the open market, Brandt believes the five-year, $45.25 million deal (with $24 million guaranteed) Santonio Holmes signed with the Jets in July is a good model.
On the surface, it might not make sense. But while Welker has had better production and doesn’t have the same sort of character issues swirling around him that Holmes has, he’s also 30 years old and is two years removed from a devastating knee injury.
“Welker has had vastly more production than Holmes and has none of the off field issues that Holmes did,” Brandt said. “However, Holmes was an unrestricted free agent, which creates enormous value.”
Brandt did say that if the Patriots and Welker’s representation are talking at this point, that certainly alters the equation.
“At this point, though, the Patriots would be seeking a discount with over half the season remaining,” Brandt said. “As to what discount, that is hard to quantify. Welker’s production certainly speaks to the top of the market — besides Fitzgerald — but anticipating similar production is a harder question at age 30.”
While both sides have maintained relative radio silence on a possible new deal, history would certainly seem to favor the receiver staying in New England. In 2009, Welker changed representation, leaving Vann McElroy and aligning himself with Dunn of Athletes First. Known primarily as an agency that reps bigger name quarterbacks — Dunn hammered out a $103 million agreement between the Patriots and Drew Bledsoe back in 2000 — Dunn and Athletes First have represented Patriots like Aaron Hernandez and Zoltan Mesko, and historically have had a good working relationship with New England.
“He’s just a special guy. He’s a phenomenon,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said of Welker. “It’s our hope that he will be someone who will be with us for the rest of his career. You know that we’re a team that’s not about trying to encourage and sign people who want the last dollar. If money’s the most important thing, then we’ll have trouble getting a deal done.
“But he is pretty special. … We couldn’t ask for a better guy.”
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