Wes Welker signed with the Denver Broncos for two years and $12 million Wednesday, leaving many to wonder why the Patriots couldn’t find the cap space to keep him in New England, as they had appeared ready to do. As more information about the move surfaces, though, it seems that this signing is a lot less about money.
Greg Bedard of The Boston Globe says a lack of respect was what ultimately pushed Welker away, pointing to the Patriots’ initial offer of two years and $10 million plus incentives — well under what Welker was expected to get. The Patriots thought Welker would “take a discount after playing for the $9.515 million franchise tag in 2012,” which would have put his three-year net salary from the Patriots around $19.5 million guaranteed. That range was reportedly what he was asking for before last season.
But Welker, who took a risk by playing under the franchise tag for a year, wanted a real deal this time — and he didn’t want to do the Patriots any favors after they failed to work out a deal with him before. The hard-line stance of the Patriots — who also toyed with Welker’s feelings in the first couple of weeks of the 2012 season, when they appeared to be cutting him out of the offense — appeared to be too much in the end.
After the Broncos made their offer — a decent contract, considering Welker was expected to have a hard time finding suitors in this year’s free-agent market — Welker and the Broncos “quickly pushed toward a deal,” Bedard reports.
Welker and the Patriots got in touch again, but by that point, the Patriots were heavily pursuing Danny Amendola as a replacement for Welker, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston. The Patriots, fearing losing both Welker and Amendola and not feeling great about the contract negotiations with Welker so far, were leaning toward locking up Amendola.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft called Welker and talked to him personally, Bedard reports. But the Patriots did not make a counter-offer, leaving the ball in Denver’s court. Reiss reports that the Patriots told “Welker and his representatives that they had entered into another commitment, which Welker’s camp assumed all along was Amendola.” While the Patriots still left the offer for Welker, it was clear what message was being sent.
Ron Borges of The Boston Herald has slightly different information, saying Welker “did not ask the Pats to match,” although he doesn’t say whether Welker and Kraft had a conversation. Either way, by the time Welker got the offer, he appeared ready to make a decision, with the Patriots once again having sent him a sign that he wasn’t their top priority.
The Patriots’ offer could have reached as much as $16 million over two years, but the incentives “would be extremely difficult to reach,” Reiss reports. Reiss also said Welker got an offer up to two years and $15 million from another AFC team. Adam Schefter of ESPN now reports that team was the Titans.
While the contract size was certainly part of what drove Welker’s decision, the bigger reason behind the deal — that he had long perceived a lack of respect from the Patriots — appears to be the biggest factor in him signing with the Broncos.
In the end, the two years and $12 million look to just be numbers in a bigger story. After playing six years, holding the Patriots’ all-time receptions record and providing a physically and emotionally durable center to New England’s offense (not to mention an outlet for Tom Brady, whose contract restructuring was widely thought to be done for Welker’s benefit), Welker and the Patriots have a messy breakup and hurt feelings on their hands.
And, as messy breakups generally go, the emotions and finger-pointing are likely only getting started, with the latest jab a hard one: Welker will now be catching passes from Peyton Manning.