The New England Patriots are reportedly far off on a deal with their Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker. The Kansas City Chiefs are predictably silent in their dealings with Dwayne Bowe. Both players serve as the primary target for their quarterbacks as the best receiver on the respective teams. While the Pats and Chiefs both have other options, there's no denying the incredible value that both Welker and Bowe bring to the offense.
The players are incredibly different. Welker's game doesn't resemble Bowe's in any way -- from their build to their strengths to the way their teams deploy them on the field. But both are veteran wideouts who have "proven" themselves on the field and, on the surface, should be candidates for the long-term deals that both front offices seem reticent to hand out.
There's no denying the productivity of either. No one has more catches in the NFL since 2007 than Welker. Even after tearing his ACL and MCL, Welker came back quicker than anyone expected and posted career highs in yards and touchdowns last year. Bowe led the NFL in touchdowns in 2010 and continues to ring up Pro Bowl numbers on a run-first offense.
Yet each also comes with "concerns" that they can't seem to shake. Welker's size at 5'9" and age (31) are brought up as reasons why he perhaps doesn't warrant a long-term extension at this point in his career. Never mind he just racked up another 1,569 receiving yards in 2011.
As for Bowe, the diva reputation he earned as a rookie in the league hasn't helped matters even years later, and he's been criticized for dropping the ball too much. Yet again, another 81 catches for 1,159 yards in 2011 after a league-leading 15 touchdowns in 2010 have to count for something. Allow either one of these guys to hit the open market and they'll break the bank with a long-term deal from someone thankful for the chance.
Therein lies in the quandary for both players. Other teams -- multiple teams for both players -- would be lining up on the open market filled with hope that the player would actually choose them. Yet the teams that own them seem to have a different perspective -- one that has to think about the other players who warrant extensions coming up (i.e. Aaron Hernandez among others for the Pats, Branden Albert among others for the Chiefs).
No one would say that the Chiefs don't value Bowe or that the Patriots don't appreciate Welker. They use them heavily in their offense, rely on them in crunch time and have paid them handsomely to this point. But it's also clear that they don't value them for the long-term the way another team (or teams) might. This is the main issue for both players -- veteran receivers who have signed the franchise tag and await their long-term fate.
To play out year to year is not such a bad thing. Each player will receive just over $9.5 million if they sign the franchise tender this season. Even if they get saddled with it again next season, each player would receive approximately $11.4 million in 2013. Those are numbers anyone should be proud of, even if it lacks the long-term security other franchised players have received this offseason.
But both players could make a strong case for being underappreciated for the long haul. Bowe, after all, is only 27 on a team with no other primary wideout options. The team (and fan base) has high hopes for Jon Baldwin, but there's nothing concrete to support that, and in a league where a team needs at least one elite wideout, Bowe is the offense's greatest asset. As for Welker, he's proven he can beat injury, age, size and any limitation placed upon him to date and shown himself to be one of the NFL's most exciting players in a generation.
The Patriots and Chiefs have until Monday's deadline to sign the player or else force Welker and Bowe to play out the franchise designation. At this point, Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli might want to just play out the respective scenarios year by year. If the team has the money, that's not a bad option. But it will also be an expensive one and the players will have to perform as if they must prove themselves all over again, despite the impressive showing they've already put on.