Wes Welker’s representatives disagreed Tuesday with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s version of the discussions that sent the popular receiver to the Denver Broncos.
The statement from Athletes First, released to NFL.com, said they received one “take it or leave it” offer that left no other choice except the free agency route, and that eventually led to the Broncos deal.
“Specifically, both sides are clear that the Patriots made one offer to Wes Welker since the prior negotiations ended in July 2012,” the statement read. “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 told reporters at the NFL’s annual meetings in Phoenix that Welker’s agents, David Dunn and Brian Murphy of Athletes First, misread the market. He said Welker signed with Denver for less guaranteed money, and by the time Welker gave New England a chance to beat the deal, the team had already moved forward with Danny Amendola.
“Wes Welker, just to be very clear, was our first choice to be with the team,” Kraft said Monday. “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.”
Welker signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Broncos on March 13. Kraft said the team’s final proposal was two years at $10 million, with incentives that could have brought it to $16 million. He added that if Welker had approached the team sooner with a proposal that was essentially what the Broncos offered, the team would’ve closed that gap “in a second.”
Athletes First disagreed.
“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 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.”