Amidst all the conundrum with the NFL offseason, many readers have asked me, “Are you going to talk about the Percy Harvin and Anquan Boldin trades? What about Wes Welker? How will Tom Brady do without him?” The last question is the important one to address and it was addressed before any of this happened. It all started with a man by the name of Joe Flacco.
Flacco’s new contract has cemented in the NFL that the centerpiece of each team is the quarterback and everyone else are supporters to him. Take a minute to look at the three big wide receiver moves and see what I mean.
First, Percy Harvin’s trade to the Seattle Seahawks is for the benefit of Russell Wilson. Russell Wilson exploded onto the scene amd after this past season, add Wilson and the Seahawks as one of the top 5 feared teams in the NFL. The one thing Wilson was lacking was a wide receiver core. Yes, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate did perform well, but Wilson didn’t have that one go-to receiver or a one-two punch receiving combo that many other elite teams such as: Matt Ryan with Roddy White and Julio Jones, Tom Brady with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, Eli Manning with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, the list goes on. With the addition of Harvin, Wilson has that elite go-to receiver and it translates to Wilson having a better offense to work with to complement the already powerful defense Seattle boasts. Think about it, Wilson had a phenomenal rookie season posting a rating of 100 and a QBR of 69.6 with the receiving core he had. By adding Harvin, it adds options for special teams and options for Wilson in the pass. You best believe Wilson’s sophomore year is shaping up to be pretty darn good.
Second, Anquan Boldin’s trade, while shocking and unnecessary to say the least on the Ravens part, cements the San Francisco 49ers as perennial favorites to make it to the Super Bowl for the second year. But why do you think it was done? Two words: Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick burst onto the scene when Alex Smith got injured and with a team of veterans, Kaepernick found himself against Wilson and Seahawks and narrowly escaped with a win. In the Super Bowl, Kaepernick struggled early, but gave a valiant effort in the second half, thanks to an assist from the New Orleans Superdome (We haven’t forgotten!). Imagine if Kaepernick had another veteran like Boldin to complement Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis? With the addition of Boldin, it adds postseason experience, Super Bowl experience, and he can also assist Kaepernick with his growth as a quarterback after playing with the Super Bowl MVP and now richest quarterback in the league. Don’t forget, Boldin can do some serious blocking, so when Kaepernick takes off in a read option play, Boldin adds physicality to complement his versatility. Elite veteran receiver and run blocker, I think the 49ers got a nice 2 for 1 special with Boldin.
Last but not least, Wes Welker. Welker’s decision to sign with the Denver Broncos was a smart move on his part and a smart move on the Patriots part for two things. One, the Patriots don’t have to worry about Welker pleading for money and two, both teams made signings that benefit their quarterback. Yes, Welker leaving New England does mean a key target of Brady’s is gone, but Brady has proven in his career to be a very flexible quarterback who works well with any receiver you give him, with the exception being Chad Ochocinco…or is he now Johnson again…? Regardless, along with Wes Welker, receivers like Randy Moss, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth all saw an improvement in their game by playing with Tom Brady. The signing of Danny Amendola means the Patriots are going in a new direction with a younger receiver. Looking at the numbers, the Broncos win with the signing of Wes Welker.
Welker played all of last year while Amendola only played 9 games and Welker was the most targeted receiver by Brady. Moving to Denver, where Peyton Manning runs the show and complemented with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, adding Welker can add a surprise factor and it will keep defenses on their toes because of the plethora of options for Manning. For Brady, it is a wait and see with Amendola because last year didn’t provide much of a glimpse as to how effective Amendola can be in filling in the cleats of Welker. The Patriots though hope being under the eliteness of Brady will make Amendola better, but unlike Denver, it is a wait and see, not a guarantee.
So, what do all three situations have in common? All three situations are moves geared to providing a comfortable offensive culture for the respective quarterbacks. For Wilson, the addition of an elite wide receiver means Wilson gets a go-to receiver other elite quarterbacks have. For Kaepernick, experience will help him mold himself into a flexible quarterback and the addition of a blocker to complement his running abilities means bad news for the NFL. For Brady and Manning, it’s new faces who look to fulfill very high expectations with elite quarterbacks. Welker must take charge as a leader for the receivers and Amendola must work well with Brady.
It’s all about the quarterback and while we won’t see as many quarterbacks in this year’s draft, you better believe the focus will be how to complement the quarterback offensively and defensively.