ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Two days, $56 million. Yes, John Elway can handle the checkbook almost as nimbly as he once threw the football.
For the second straight offseason, the Broncos quarterback-turned-front office chief made as big a splash as anyone in NFL free agency. In the span of 48 hours, he added receiver Wes Welker and four more players – all with the single goal of getting Peyton Manning and the Broncos to the Super Bowl as soon as possible.
“I was probably the one pitching to him, trying to make this happen and everything else,” Welker said Thursday about his discussions with Elway.
The subtext: At 31 and entering his 10th year in the league, Welker wants to win Super Bowls more than cash huge checks. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract — relatively modest for the most productive receiver in the league over the past six years.
Welker, who has 768 career receptions for 8,580 yards and 38 touchdowns, was Denver’s biggest signing. The former New England slot receiver is moving to Denver after his former team, the Patriots, offered him $10 million over the same time frame.
No umbrage taken, Welker insisted, though he made a point of saying he’ll miss Tom Brady.
“I’d definitely like to thank New England for the six years there, all the trust and everything they put in me,” Welker said. “As free agency kind of went on, I kind of got the feeling that it was time to start looking for other opportunities. Denver, I felt, would be a great fit for me.”
The Patriots quickly moved to replace Welker, agreeing to terms with receiver Danny Amendola on a deal that would reportedly pay him $31 million over five years.
“We are excited about Danny’s addition to our team and we look forward to beginning work with him this spring and into the future,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said in a release.
Also Thursday, the Patriots announced the signing of running back Leon Washington, who has played seven seasons with the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks.
Amendola, 27, is a 5-foot-11, 188-pound former rookie free agent from Texas Tech — the same school as Welker. After signing with the Rams in 2009, Amendola led the NFL with 66 kickoff returns, 1,618 kickoff return yards and 1,978 total return yards.
The following season, he led the NFL with 2,364 all-purpose yards, catching 85 passes for 689 yards and three touchdowns.
“We talked to Danny throughout the process and (are) very excited for Danny, happy for Danny and his opportunity and wish him well,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.
“We started this process back in September and it didn’t work out for us. You’d think as soon as Welker leaves, Danny’s their guy and in fact he is. He’s going to be very productive in their offense.”
Amendola has struggled to stay healthy, playing in 16 games only once.
Washington, 30, is a former fourth-round draft choice from Florida State who shares the NFL record of eight career kickoff returns for touchdowns. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2012.
In 103 NFL games, Washington has run 473 times for 2,213 yards and 16 touchdowns, and caught 146 passes for 1,127 yards and two TDs.