Hard-ball tactics cost Patriots Wes Welker

Perhaps no NFL organization is as detached and unemotional in contract negotiations than the New England Patriots. They do not care if you're a star player or the last person on the bench -- New England rarely budges and never overpays.

That is why it was no surprise that, for the second year in a row, New England played hardball with Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker. Despite the immense production (five 100-catch seasons), high character and playing below market value most of his career, New England wasn't giving an inch.

Often New England's rough tactics lead to players signing at a bargain. But in this case, it resulted in Welker bolting for the Denver Broncos. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Welker’s contract is for two years and $12 million. That is not a huge amount and further proof the Patriots were lowballing Welker.

Welker most likely grew tired of the song and dance with New England and decided it was time to move on. Welker did everything right during his time in New England. He worked extremely hard to overcome his height and speed deficiencies to become one of the most productive receivers of all-time. He never complained about being underpaid in New England, and Welker gave the Patriots every chance to re-sign him even after free agency opened Tuesday. In the end Welker stuck it to the Patriots by signing with their biggest competition in the AFC.

The Patriots will move on and be in contention even without Welker. They still have quarterback Tom Brady and dynamic tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and they probably have a Plan B in free agency (Danny Amendola? Julian Edelman?) or the draft (Tavon Austin?).

But are the Patriots still the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl? You have to give the Broncos the preseason edge in that department. Welker's 118 receptions he's taking to Peyton Manning and away from Brady makes a difference.