The New England Patriots have garnered a reputation around the NFL as a franchise that makes shrewd personnel decisions when it comes to dealing with players, and they’re unapologetic in that approach.
No one knows this better than former Patriot slot receiver Wes Welker, a player who owns the Patriots receptions records, has been selected to the Pro Bowl and made the All-Pro team every season he’s been in New England but for whatever reason he was allowed to walk away to a rival team.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, has heard all the mumblings and criticisms of how his organization dealt coldly with a player who put it on all on the line for them. He felt the need to respond – in lengthy fashion I might add especially for the tight-lipped Patriots – to the backlash in a story courtesy of ESPN.
“We usually don’t talk about contracts, but I’d like to clear up what I think is some misconceptions about the Wes situation,” Kraft told reporters at the NFL annual meeting. “Everyone in our organization wanted Wes Welker back. Anyone who doubts that, or thinks we weren’t serious, just doesn’t get it. I’ve owned the team 19 years and I’ve known in the end we have to have certain limits and restraints. Like I’ve said many times, I really wanted Wes to be with us through the rest of his career, but it takes two sides to do a deal.In Wes’ case, we were willing to go what we considered above his market value. For a couple years, we tried to get a long-term deal done with him. We couldn’t do a deal and we wound up franchising him [in 2012] at a very high number [$9.5 million]. In retrospect, I wish we could have wrapped that into an arrangement where it was part of a longer-term deal.”
“But 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 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. But in Denver, he’s going to count $4 million against the cap this coming year and $8 million the second year. There is no guarantee that he plays the second year there. He will get $6 million the first year. Our deal, he would have gotten $8 million the first year.”
Kraft even went as far to say that he was sad to see the Welker go, and that some miscommunication may have led to his departure.
“Wednesday, I personally got a call from Wes and he told me about this offer from Denver,” Kraft said. “He called Bill [Belichick] as well. We met and we chatted. We have a lot of people, we’ve committed a lot of money to this inside position — you have [Rob Gronkowski], you have [Aaron] Hernandez, you have Danny [Amendola] now — it was just unfortunately a little bit too late.
“If he had called one day earlier, he would have been with us. And so that, is the Wes Welker story. I’m very sad about it and I wish he would have been with our team.”
The Patriots owner also addressed the reports out there, that his franchise quarterback Tom Brady was pissed off about losing his most reliable target.
“I don’t answer to Tom Brady,” Kraft said. “He’s an important member of the team and we’ve chatted. He did what he did to put us in the best position to build a team around him and win games. We’ve chatted about it. But he has never … it has been reported that he, or people close to him, have made certain comments. None of that is true. I’ve spoken with him directly. Whomever is creating that impression is mistaken.”
The business side of the NFL can be cruel almost all the time. To Kraft’s credit he didn’t come off as the heartless owner of the Patriots that he’s perceived to be by those outside of the organization.
You would think that a situation like this, that is typically Patriots, where they let such a valued asset go while replacing him so easily, would affect them negatively and make free agents shy away from signing there, but it won’t as long as they’re winning and as long as Tom Brady is their quarterback.
At the end of the day people will always be attracted to winners.