This week saw the Patriots failing to come to terms with Wes Welker on a longer term deal and paying him the franchise tag amount of $9.5 million this year. The Internet has been abuzz with feedback, mostly negative from the fans’ perspective. Some have rightly pointed out that that Patriots are unlikely to to put the franchise tag on him next year (which would cost over $11 million), meaning they’d have to compete with other teams for his talent and pay him in the $9 million range next year for a total of $18.5 million over two years. Considering industry estimates were around $20-25 million for a 3 year deal as the price the Patriots were unwilling to pay this week, paying a few extra million in guaranteed money to keep one of the team’s most productive players over the past decade happy seems like a no-brainer.
Or is it?
As a Patriots fan, and ticket purchaser, I should probably be thanking Bob and Jonathan Kraft for not throwing a few extra million Welker’s way. The Patriots already had the second highest average home ticket prices in the NFL last season, averaging nearly $118. That price may seem fine for a sport with only 8 regular season home games, but one has to look only to Boston’s other beloved team, the Red Sox, to see where the Patriots could head if they took a page from the Sox. The Red Sox have the highest ticket prices in MLB with an average of $53.38 for a non-premium seat, twice the league average. Part of the reason why the Red Sox charge that much is because they can, but it also has to do with the amount of money needed to fund an operation that, on more than one occasion, has seriously overpaid for players (see also: Carl Crawford, Daisuke). A few times the Red Sox owners have lit money on fire by giving away players and paying $7.8 million of the $9.8 million owed to said player while he plays for the other team, then watching as said player hits a game winning home run on his first trip back to Fenway (sorry, still bitter about the Youkilis trade). The Red Sox have never been concerned with money and that’s caused them to make some very sloppy decisions over the past few years for which the fans ultimately pay the price, literally. I acknowledge there is a difference between the luxury tax of the MLB and the hard salary cap of the NFL, but guaranteeing a player money for 3 years in the NFL is a much more risky venture. The cost of wasting money in the NFL is extremely high. Although I recently wrote that Welker was my favorite Patriot, I realize that spending for nostalgia will ultimately raise the price of my tickets and merchandise but may not get us any closer to another ring.