Sunday night’s AFC Championship Game was bad enough. Now, on top of that mess, the Patriots are dealing with all the questions that come as a season ends — and even some about what will happen before next season begins.
One of the major questions for New England this offseason will be what happens with Wes Welker. The valuable slot receiver has failed to come to a long-term contract with the team before, and the drawn-out negotiations that ended with him taking the franchise tag for this year are expected to culminate again sometime soon.
New England owner Robert Kraft has said he wants Welker to be a Patriot for life, and coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have never been shy about singing Welker’s praises for what he contributes to both the offense and the team.
What that means, contract-wise, is still in question, but Brady used his Monday morning appearance on WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan to emphasize again what he thinks about Welker.
“I think those business parts of the game, those usually take care of themselves. Certainly I’m not involved in any of those,” Brady said when asked about Welker’s contract situation. “Everyone knows how I feel about Wes. Our whole team feels that way about Wes. He’s one of the best players I’ve played with and played against. He’s just a phenomenal player.
“He’s been the heart and soul of what our team’s all about. He’s been so selfless. The way that he carries himself and commits himself to help our team win, it’s second to none. But like I said, those aren’t my decisions. … To me, it’s still too early to think about the offseason. This is going to be tough to get over for quite a while.”
Welker had another great game Sunday night, catching eight passes for 117 yards. He was once again right in the mix when the Patriots needed him most, converting on key downs and bouncing up after big hits against a physical Ravens team.
The strong championship game showing came after an eight-catch, 131-yard week against the Texans, which capped a regular season with 118 receptions and 1,354 yards. Welker has gone over 1,000 yards five times in six seasons in New England, and he holds the team record for catches.
Brady also talked about Welker’s durability in the game, and where the Patriots failed to hold their own against the Ravens. He gave his assessment of the team’s missed opportunity at the end of the first half, when the Patriots failed to do more than score a field goal as the clock was winding down.
Overall, Brady’s view of the game was close to what most Patriots supporters were thinking.
“We’re capable of playing so well, but we just weren’t able to do it [Sunday],” he said. “It’s just a bad night to have a bad night.”
The Patriots have a chance to avoid a bad offseason starting now.