Wes Welker leaving the Patriots and joining the Broncos on a modest two-year, $12 million deal was one of the biggest surprises of NFL free agency.
There were whispers of a rift between Welker and the team before free agency started, but New England had plenty of cap room and Welker was such a key piece of their offence that everyone assumed he’d stay.
Now both Welker and the team have released statements about what went down, and unsurprisingly they’re blaming each other. Welker’s agency says the Patriots refused to negotiate, and and the Patriots say Welker’s agent demanded way to much money.
Here’s what owner Robert Kraft told reporters yesterday (via ESPN):
“Wes Welker, just to be very clear, was our first choice to be with the team. When free agency came, and his agents kept on insisting on a very high number that was beyond our number, we had to go work alternatives.”
He added (via PFT):
“But I really believe in this case, his agents misrepresented, in their mind, what his market value was. When you come right down to the bottom line, he accepted a deal in Denver which is less money than what we offered him.”
The team ended up signing Danny Amendola (basically a younger Welker) for five years, $31 million.
Late last night, Welker’s agency shot back with a press release saying the team only made a single “take it or leave it” offer (via ESPN):
“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.”
It’s hard to know who’s right here, although it’s tough to believe that Welker would take less money to leave New England, which Kraft seemed to be implying.
All in all, it probably worked out for both sides. Welker will get to catch short passes from Peyton Manning in Denver for the next two years, and the Patriots landed a younger player in Amendola who does the same things as Welker in a long-term deal.
But it was far from an amiable break-up.
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