Based on the last year of negotiations and the back-and-forth between the team and the player, it wasn't a huge surprise that the Patriots and receiver Wes Welker couldn't come to an agreement on a new contract and that Welker split for Denver to work with quarterback Peyton Manning.
Clearly, that didn't make New England owner Bob Kraft happy, and he let loose at the NFL owners meetings on Monday, saying the Patriots gave Welker a better offer than the Broncos and that, "I really believe in this case his agents misrepresented in their mind what his market value was.”
Naturally, Welker's agency has responded.
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“Both sides are clear that the Patriots made one offer to Wes Welker since the prior negotiations ended in July 2012,” Athletes First wrote in an email to NFL.com's Albert Breer. “Both sides also agree that this two-year offer came just hours before the start of free agency despite discussions that began at the NFL Combine. Moreover, this lone offer was presented as a 'take it or leave it offer.'
"When we asked if there was room for structural changes, we were told no. We made a counter-offer for the same term and same maximum dollar amount as their offer, and it was rejected. We inquired if any of the offer's components were negotiable and were told no. This refusal to actually negotiate made it easy to reject the Patriots offer. Nevertheless, when we received the Denver Broncos' offer, Wes personally talked to Mr. Kraft to give the Patriots the opportunity to match it. The Patriots rejected this opportunity, and Wes signed with the Denver Broncos.”
Welker probably would have stayed with New England -- he has been a loyal employee for many years and was a believer in the Patriot Way -- if the team had upped its offer.
But Kraft reasons it this way, saying, “He accepted a deal in Denver which was less than what we offered him. Because, in fact, he has a one-year deal in Denver for $6 million. Our last offer before we thought we were going into free agency was a $10 million offer with incentives that would've earned him another $6 million if he performed the way he has the previous two years.
"But in Denver, he's going to count $4 million against the cap the first year and $8 million the second year and there's no guarantee he plays the second year. So he will get $6 million the first year. Our deal, he would've gotten $8 million the first year with our last offer to him."
Maybe that's true, but Welker probably needed more of a commitment than that from New England, especially since he dutifully accepted a franchise tag last season (and signed it almost immediately to show his continued loyalty) and since his role in the offense seemed to decline significantly in the early part of 2012. Welker was loyal to his team, but did his team show that kind of loyalty back to him? And what to make of the Patriots signing Danny Amendola earlier than we had thought and actually before Welker signed with the Broncos?
Either way, Athletes First wants to let everybody know that it's not offended by Kraft's discussion on Monday -- a speech that CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman deemed not one of the classiest of Kraft's career.
“Once the frustrations settle down, however, we hope both sides will focus not upon what went wrong but instead everything Wes did right on and off the field during his time with the Patriots,” the agency wrote in the statement. “That Wes deserves a lengthy standing ovation when he returns to Foxboro Stadium with the Denver Broncos is one conclusion upon which both sides can readily agree."
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