|Welker and the Pats still have respect for each other, says the team president. (US Presswire)|
After signing his franchise tag and squabbling back and forth with his team over negotiations and whether they were fair, Patriots receiver Wes Welker might be playing his final season in New England.
Recently, the negotiations have been characterized as non-existent after the two sides reportedly were about $6 million apart in guaranteed money. Obviously with the July 16 deadline gone, the two sides can't negotiate now. But lest you think the Patriots don't appreciate Welker's contributions in the past five years -- where he's been the most prolific receiver in the league -- team president Jonathan Kraft is here to change your mind.
Even if the Patriots seem intent on wringing one last season out of the 31-year-old Welker before releasing him into free agency and even if it seems that Welker's loyalty to the team won't be rewarded with a long-term extension, Kraft says different.
“He's going to be with us this year for sure and I think both sides tried hard to get something done and Wes Welker is a professional,” Kraft said on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston (via sportradiointerviews.com). “I think also the organization is professional and there's a lot of mutual respect there and I think we'll have a productive year and hopefully things will work out over the long run. It's hard in the business to project a week out and to project 52 weeks out is just a lot to ask and probably not worth doing.”
Yes, but what about the perception that while Welker has continued to give his heart to the team, the Patriots haven't reciprocated in the way that some people expect? Or in a way that's fair?
“Look, on a personal level Wes Welker is right there with anybody who has played for the team since our family has owned it,” Kraft said. “He's the ultimate professional. He's a great football player. A great person. He brings a huge amount of effort every time he steps into this building be it in March or April or be it in October or on a Sunday afternoon. Emotions have to stay out of it when you are looking at the dollars. … When you start looking at the business side of it and you have a scarce resource, which is cap space, you have to think through every one of the 53 slots and make sure you are making the right decision for this year, two-three-four years down the road.
“I think Wes or any player needs to think about it in the converse and needs to look at the landscape of the league and understand what is out there and you try to meet in the middle. When you are not able to do that it doesn't necessarily mean that there's not a trust valuable relationship between the two parties. We have plenty of business situations where people sit down in good faith to try to get something done and people have different perceptions of the world and one side may ultimately end up right and one side probably ends up wrong, but there's a lot of respect on both side of the table. Wes is here. He is a Patriot for this year. Hopefully he'll be a Patriot beyond.”
I guess we'll revisit this in another year or so and see if both sides have used that “valuable relationship” to “meet in the middle” on a long-term deal for a receiver who deserves it.
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