When reports arose Monday that the Patriots had never given Wes Welker a fresh offer, it seemed fitting. While the narrative running up to this offseason was always that the Patriots wanted Welker back, with the price the sticking point, the evidence provided over recent weeks only indicated that New England never planned for Welker to return.
With the Patriots quick to move on to slot receiver Danny Amendola and Welker reading the signs and going to Denver, all that was left was for both sides to tip their caps and acknowledge that, despite the public posturing, Welker was never coming back to New England.
Then, on Monday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave his view of the situation, sharing lengthy comments about the negotiations of the usually tight-lipped club. In what appeared to be a move to save face after proclaiming that he wanted Welker to be a “Patriot for life,” Kraft was emphatic that the Pats wanted Welker back and had made moves to get him. He said the problem was that Welker and his agent were asking for far more money than Welker was worth, and that the Patriots didn’t see any point in negotiating further.
While Welker appeared to be ready to leave the matter behind before, his representatives have piped again now — and for good reason. Welker’s camp is saying that, as much as they respect the process and the outcome of negotiating with the Patriots, Kraft is flat-out wrong.
In a statement first sent to NFL.com’s Albert Breer, the group that represents Welker, Athletes First, calls into question some of what Kraft said Monday.
“We are cognizant of Mr. Kraft’s close friendship with Wes Welker and understand his frustration,” the statement says in part. “In that light, we are not offended by Mr. Kraft’s statements regarding Athletes First’s role in the negotiation and are confident that Mr. Kraft has great respect for the work we do on behalf of our clients.
“We do, however, feel the need to clarify some of the confusion surrounding these negotiations. Specifically, both sides are clear that the Patriots made one offer to Wes Welker since the prior negotiations ended in July 2012. 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.”
While Kraft painted the situation as unfortunate, and something that could have been avoided if Welker had come back to the Patriots sooner, Welker’s representatives framed it differently.
“When we received the Denver Broncos’ offer, Wes personally talked to Mr. Kraft to give the Patriots the opportunity to match it,” the statement says. “The Patriots rejected this opportunity, and Wes signed with the Denver Broncos. Despite Mr. Kraft’s impression to the contrary, the Patriots representatives who participated in these phone calls never indicated that the team ‘would have even gone up’ on their offer, or that these discussions occurred ‘before we thought we were going into free agency.’ Instead, the Patriots made it abundantly clear that their one offer was non-negotiable.”
The statement says that “no blame” is being assigned but notes that the statement was being released because “we believe it is important that the negotiations are accurately portrayed in the media.”
Welker and the Patriots appeared to be making their way toward a respectful end to their relationship, with both sides accepting that perhaps it was time to move on. With Kraft getting involved again, though — and poking at the very same areas that once made Welker so irritated when he tried to negotiate with the Patriots before — this back-and-forth could just be getting started.