Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports NFL analyst Peter King checked in with Mut & Merloni for his weekly Patriots Friday appearance and weighed in on some key issues involving the Patriots.
Wes Welker's cut in playing time has been a huge issue in New England this week. King speculated that Welker is indeed being phased out.
"I think they're preparing for life without Wes Welker," King said. "I think if you look at the reality of this situation, Bill Belichick has always -- I mean always -- had the future in mind when he is trying to figure out how he is going to put his team into play for both the present and the future. All you have to do is look back at Richard Seymour. When you look back at Richard Seymour you realize in essence good players can be traded and can be gotten rid of.
"Now, I'll just make this point: Even though Wes Welker is not playing as many snaps as he did let's say a year ago, I did look [it] up this week -- he played 63 of 82 offensive snaps in that game against Arizona. It's not like he's being benched. And I understand that [Julian] Edelman has obviously taken some of his work away. And you look at it and you say, 'Jeez, well, why are the Patriots doing that?' And I think it has to do with basically survival of the fittest. If Bill Belichick knows he's going to lose Wes Welker at the end of this year -- which he figures he probably is. They made their best shot, he decided not to sign. And if they're either going to lose him at the trading deadline or at the end of the year, he says, 'I've got to find out if Julian Edelman is the guy.' And so, that's what he's in the process of finding out right now."
Asked if he thinks Welker will be traded, King said: "I think it's doubtful that they'll trade him, unless they got a really good offer. But I think that nothing is impossible. What if some team comes to them and says, 'We'll give you a [second-round draft pick]?' … What if you're Belichick? You know you've only got him for, let's say at that time, 12 more games. Is it worth it? If I were BIll, I'd strongly consider that. Because if you're not going to have the guy around and you believe that Edelman is an adequate replacement, I would do that if I were them."
Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton raised some eyebrows earlier this week when he claimed that his defense picked up on some Patriots tendencies that made it easy for Arizona to figure out what was coming during the Cardinals' 20-18 victory Sunday.
"I find him an honorable guy, and I find him an honest guy," King said of Horton. "So, I have to think that what he has done here, maybe, is overstated what he knew. Because I can't believe -- and I've known Ray -- I can't believe he'd lie about something like that. Perhaps it was overstated, and clearly the numbers don't bear it out -- something doesn't match there.
"I also think this: A lot of times, when you're a young, rising team like the Cardinals hope that they are, and you get excited after going to New England and the defense you call works against one of the best offenses ever to take the field, you get excited. So, I've got to think he overstated what happened a little bit and what they knew, because just knowing the guy the way I know him, I just can't believe that he would have made it up."
Looking at the situation with the game officials, King said the league still is "probably two disastrous weeks away from giving in" on at least one of the issues preventing the sides from settling.
"The NFL understands that people are still going to watch the games, people are still going to go to the games, and people are still going to talk about the games," King said. "Now, I believe if there are many more weeks like Week 2, where there were two games that I thought were borderline abominations: the Monday night game, where the officials just lost control of the game, and then the game Philadelphia and Baltimore in Philly, where for the life of me I cannot figure out why they were afraid to throw somebody out of the game after all the fights in the game.
"At some point you have to look at this and say this isn't working. In my opinion, it's not working. Now, there are some games where they do fine. Last night they missed two obvious false starts, they still are not capable of calling pass interference correctly and illegal contact. But in essence, they did a fine job last night. There was nothing glaring about that game. Half the games, there's nothing glaring about them, really. So, I think the NFL, unless they feel pressure, is not really going to in a revolutionary way change its offer."
Regarding the specific issues that are preventing the regular officials' return, King said: "The biggest problem right now has to do with two things that are not really money related, because they're not really fighting over the money that they're paid per game. They're fighting over the fact that the NFL wants to hire 21 additional officials to basically give them a farm system. So if some guy is rated poorly two or three weeks in a row, he goes to the bench and the next bet-rated head linesman gets called up. So, that's one thing.
"And I think the other thing is the pension. Last year, all NFL officials got $38,000 contributed to their pension for the post-career plans. The NFL is trying to lower that to about $16,000 a year. … Those are the two biggest issues right now. You're right, they met this week, Jay Glazer [of Fox Sports] reported it, it was a top-secret negotiation, and they got nowhere."
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