Every team has its own identity. With every new season, that identity changes a little bit.
For the Patriots, next season can't be about clinging to unfinished business, and it can't be about rushing to get Tom Brady a ring before he retires. Next season should be about refreshing our youth and rediscovering our team.
Let's assume we keep Wes Welker. Right there, we're guaranteed to have a successful season in 2012. Thing is, though, the Patriots are successful every year. We even had a great season when Tom Brady went down with an injury and Matt Cassel stepped in. This team knows how to win.
We can't make wise offseason decisions if our only goal is to win 14 games in the regular season. If we want to win a championship, then we have to expand the dialogue.
Wes Welker is one of my favorite players, but there's a limit to how much I think he's worth. I wouldn't give him a long-term deal, and I wouldn't pay him over the tag minimum next season. Truth is, the longer I think about it, the more he clashes with my desire for where I want this team to go.
What I'm looking for right now is youth, speed and danger. I'm looking for Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson. Take your pick: Wallace and Welker, Jackson and Welker or Wallace and Jackson.
I don't want to reinvent the Patriots, but I want to reinvent the threat of the Patriots. I'm tired of being the nice guy in the NFL. I'm tired of teams thinking they can beat the Patriots by hitting Brady. I'm tired of teams pushing us to the limit.
When teams come and visit Gillette Stadium, they should know that they're getting back on that plane with a loss. And when the Patriots visit another team's stadium, the home fans should prepare themselves for a truly bad day.
At the heart of the matter, what I'm really looking for is fear. I want players who create fear in others. Arian Foster, Victor Cruz and Calvin Johnson make other teams sick all week in practice. They force opponents to radically adjust their game plans. They make other teams play the game on their terms.
I'm tired of not having that.
For me, that's what this whole Wes Welker negotiation comes down to. Does Welker strike fear into other teams? The answer is no. Cruz scared the Patriots a lot more than Welker scared the Giants.
There was a time when teams were afraid to play against Tom Brady. Now, teams get excited to play him. The Giants and the Jets get downright gleeful when they see New England on their schedule.
I hate that.
What concerns me about keeping Welker is the prospect of heading into another season without being feared. The Brady-Welker relationship is as special and sacred to me as it is to any Patriots fan, but it's clear that this tandem doesn't quite intimidate other teams the way I want it to.
Just thinking about Tom Brady and DeSean Jackson on the field together feels edgy and devious. Imagining Tom Brady and Mike Wallace hooking up for long balls feels like chicken soup for the soul.
For all the accolades our offense gets, and all the insults our defense takes, we just scored 14 and 17 points in our last two Super Bowls. For a high-powered offense, that really sucked. We can't make these mistakes again. If we get back to the Super Bowl, we need to be confident that we have the tools to really win.
Is Welker a tool we need to win? Maybe. Sometimes I think he's a tool we want, but not necessarily one we absolutely need. I want Welker back, but his ongoing contract negotiation with the Patriots is giving me time to negotiate Wes Welker with myself.
He really isn't young, super fast or dangerous.
The main problem with keeping Welker is that I feel like I already know what next year will look like. It'll be a great regular season and a playoff run that'll probably end a little too soon.
It's difficult weighing the value of one of your favorite players from such an unflattering angle.
The time has come to take intelligent risks. If Welker asks for too much money, the Patriots don't need to pay it. View it as an opportunity to inject some youth, speed and danger into this roster. Build a new dynasty.
Go get DeSean Jackson and Mike Wallace. Maybe it's unrealistic and maybe it's greedy, but it's about time this team gets a little selfish and thinks outside of the box.
Let's go win a championship in 2012. I mean, why not? It's there. If we're going to play, we might as well win the damn thing.
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