Robert Kraft opens up about Welker negotiations
The Wes Welker trade to the Denver Broncos is still a magnet for speculations. In a shaded courtyard at the Arizona Biltmore hotel, Robert Kraft discussed the financial courting of Welker before and after free agency with media members. What separated a Bronco Welker and a Patriot Welker seemed to be a combination of deal-pushing by Welker’s agents, Athletes First, the availability of Danny Amendola, and a call from Welker to head coach Bill Belichick and Kraft to tell them of his offer from the Broncos that made the Patriots’ own offer a little too late.
“If he had called one day earlier, he would have been with us,” said Kraft. “I’m very sad about it and I wish he would have been with our team.”
By the time Kraft and Belichick received the call, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Amendola were already under contract. The Patriots didn’t want to match the Broncos’ offer sheet because Welker’s spot had essentially been filled.
Kraft blamed Athletes First for not meeting the Patriots in the middle in order to get a deal done. Kraft said he wished that instead of franchising Welker last year for a hefty $9.5 million, a longer deal could have been hammered out so that the franchise tag was part of the negotiation.
“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions — how our coach felt, how I felt. I don’t get involved very often. This is one that was really important,” Kraft said. “Wes, I used to speak to him in the locker room and say, ‘You know, you and I have to be smart here to make both sides make it happen.’
“And, you know, the agents are doing their job and doing the best job they can, but I just think there was a miscalculation of value here and playing poker, and unfortunately, the player and the team both got hurt.”
After the Patriots made an offer to Welker last Monday, Welker’s agents reportedly wanted a two-year deal close to $14 million.
“But I really believe in this case, his agents misrepresented, in their mind, what his market value was,” Kraft said. “When you come right down to the bottom line, he accepted a deal in Denver, which is less money than what we offered him. In fact, he has a one-year deal in Denver for $6 million. Our last offer, before we would have even gone up and before we thought we were going into free agency, was a $10 million offer with incentives that would have earned him another $6 million if he performed the way he had the previous two years.”
Albert Breer first reported the details of Broncos’ offer last Wednesday. Welker will receive a $4 million signing bonus, with $2 million in salary for 2013, a $3 million bonus and $3 million salary for 2014. The Patriots’ reportedly final and only offer to Welker was a 2-year $10 million contract with incentives.
Welker’s agent, David Dunn, who is also the CEO and Chairman of Athletes First, told Tom Curran of CSN New England that Dunn doesn’t believe the Patriots wanted Welker.
Kraft though, fired back.
“Did you hear what I said? There was an offer. And that’s just bogus.”