Perhaps living in the title-starved city of Cleveland brought greater significance to an NFL news nugget making the rounds in recent days.
That is, New England wide receiver Wes Welker perceives that negotiations on a long-term contract are deteriorating. The team slapped the franchise tag on Welker, who reluctantly accepted and will make $9.5 million in 2012. He had been holding out hope that a contract offer would allow him to stick around for a while, but he claimed the Patriots proposed only a two-year deal for $16 million.
Welker is a two-time All-Pro who has averaged a mind-boggling 111 catches and 1,200 yards in his last five seasons while leading the league in receptions three times. He therefore had every right to reject what is an insultingly paltry sum in today’s market.
So how does this relate to the plight of the perennially pathetic Browns? The debate as to whether Welker is truly as brilliant a receiver as his statistics suggest goes to the heart of their current quarterback issue.
In case you’ve been living in a cave since 1999, you know that since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999, its quarterbacks have – let’s not be gentle here – stunk. So the Browns selected Oklahoma State stud Brandon Weeden with the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft and have all but anointed him the starter and savior.
That ruffled the feathers of those who back incumbent quarterback Colt McCoy. They claim, with good reason, that McCoy had no chance to succeed in 2011. Why? Because not only couldn’t the Browns run or block, they completed the trifecta by boasting arguably the worst receiving corps in the NFL.
Don’t worry … we’re getting to Welker.
When asked by perplexed media member why the Browns barely addressed the wide receiver position in the offseason, coach Pat Shurmur stated emphatically his belief that Weeden will make the current receivers better.
Here’s where it gets confusing and a bit philosophical. How does a quarterback make a receiver better? One might argue that future first-ballot Hall of Famer Tom Brady makes Welker better. Or that Saints quarterback Drew Brees has lifted the production of an entire group of receivers with questionable talent.
But Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino and Joe Montana rolled into one can’t make a receiver get open. A receiver boasts the speed, quickness and savvy to separate or he doesn’t. A quarterback with arm strength and accuracy can hit a receiver quickly and in stride, thereby maximizing his potential. The bet here, however, is that a lack of athleticism will doom the Cleveland receivers, frustrate Weeden, and allow defenses to stack the box to stop new stud running back Trent Richardson.
Welker hasn’t averaged 111 catches and 1,200 yards a season simply because his quarterback is headed to Canton. And the Patriots better offer bigger bucks or he will walk and another team will enjoy the benefits of his undeniable talent.