Wes Welker‘s representatives released a statement to NFL.com early Tuesday responding to criticism from Patriots owner Robert Kraft and claimed the team showed no willingness to move from its one and only offer to Welker before the receiver accepted a deal from the Broncos.
“Both sides are clear that the Patriots made one offer to Wes Welker since the prior negotiations ended in July 2012,” read the statement from Athletes First. “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.”
On Monday, Kraft spoke at the league meetings in Phoenix and insisted the Patriots wanted to keep Welker, despite the apparent lack of effort to do so.
“Wes Welker, just to be very clear, was our first choice to be with the team,” Kraft said. “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.”
Added Kraft: “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 that is less money than what we offered him.”
Welker agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos, while the Patriots offered two years and $10 million, although incentives could have pushed the value to $16 million.
Kraft claimed Welker accepted less guaranteed money from the Broncos, and by the time the receiver presented the team with Denver’s offer, the Patriots already had moved on to Danny Amendola. Otherwise, Kraft said the team would have been willing to meet that price.
“If he had called one day earlier, he would have been with us,” Kraft said. “I’m very sad about it and I wish he would have been with our team.”
Added Kraft: “We wanted him, and we were willing to pay him slightly above what we believed his market value to be, and in fact, what it is. We in fact did it. If you look at what he accepted, and what was out there. The unfortunate part, the agent is playing poker with us, we have to decide: Are we going to be left completely naked here? Or do we go out and do the best job we can do to fill that position with the information we have available to us? And that’s what we did. Time will tell what was right.”
Welker’s representatives, while calling Kraft “an exceptional NFL owner,” disputed his assertion that the team was willing to adjust its offer.
“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,’” the Athletes First statement read. “Instead, the Patriots made it abundantly clear that their one offer was non-negotiable. Athletes First has no issue with this approach and casts no blame on either side for a deal not being consummated. However, we believe it is important that the negotiations are accurately portrayed in the media.”
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