Though Julian Edelman had a breakout season for the Patriots, catching 105 passes in 2013, the team's offense clearly wasn't as effective without veteran receiver Wes Welker. Edelman notwithstanding, it took Tom Brady many games to find a chemistry with a host of new -- and mostly inexperienced -- receivers, and without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup for much of the season, Brady didn't seem as comfortable as normal.
The acrimony with Welker seemingly went back to the offseason after the 2011 season when New England franchise-tagged him for 2012, and Welker publicly complained about the team's unwillingness to give him a long-term deal, despite his outlandish production in the previous half-decade.
Eventually, Welker signed with the Broncos for the 2013 season, and while he was third on the team with 73 catches in Denver (to go with a career-high 10 touchdowns), he helped the team to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the Patriots lost to Denver in the AFC title game.
But now the Patriots say that if they had their way, Welker would have been sporting a New England uniform in 2013.
"We had franchised him the season before. The idea was to try to work to a long-term deal," said Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, via the Boston Globe. "We had actually offered Wes a deal the summer before that on a three-year basis [that] would've left him in a financially better place than what he's going to end up having been in over those three years. But we were willing to do that at a certain time when his production was at a certain level, his age was at a certain level, and he was performing as a player. When we went another year into the process, we still in our head had a value that we were able to place on the player. The player and his agent thought that their value in the open market was going to be greater."
Welker signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Broncos, and in part, it seemed like it was because he was tired of playing for Belichick -- who Welker said admonished him in front of the team in 2012.
"It was just kind of hard," Welker said before the 2013 season. "One of those deals where you have to endure him, put up with him ... But he does it to everybody, it's the way he is."
Still, Kraft said the team wanted Welker to return.
"Going back to the consistency theme, Wes would've been our first choice," Kraft said. "There was a dollar figure at that point that we weren't willing to go beyond. And you put insurance in place by knowing what you'll do if you can't make a deal with that player. That involves going out and looking at the other guys in the league ...
"We still offered Wes before free agency started, more than he ended up getting in the open market. But once free agency started, we went out and signed Danny [Amendola] because he fit a construct that worked within our system, and we couldn't take the risk of losing both Wes and Danny. So it really wasn't as much about the money, it was about trying to do a deal with Wes before free agency started. His agent had a view of the world that we didn't think was realistic."
In related news, the Patriots reportedly are dangling Amendola as trade bait.