Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave his on-the-record portrayal of the failed Wes Welker negotiations. Athletes First, headed by David Dunn and Medfield native Brian Murphy, released a statement today to clarify their position. Now that both sides have had a chance to comment, hopefully this ends this chapter.
Athletes First has tremendous respect for Mr. Kraft and the entire Patriots organization. We have successfully consummated numerous deals with the team including Drew Bledsoe’s landmark 2001 contract and this year’s extension for Aaron Hernandez. We are grateful for how the Patriots treated Wes Welker during his tenure in Boston and know Wes will have many fond memories and friendships from his years with this great franchise.
We do not wish to rehash each step of the recent negotiations. Nor would we ever question a team’s negotiation approach as each NFL front office is entitled to the presumption of professionalism. However, we are cognizant of Mr. Kraft’s close friendship with Wes Welker and understand his frustration. 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. 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.
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. 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 potrayed in the media.
Mr. Kraft is an exceptional NFL owner with a track record of not only fielding championship teams, but also helping make the National Football League the tremendous league that it is today. It is a league that absolutely sparks passion amongst its fan base and that passion was evident yesterday from the lifelong Patriots fan Mr. Kraft. Once the frustrations settle down, however, we hope both sides will focus not upon what went wrong, but instead everything Wes did right on-and-off the field during his time with the Patriots. That Wes deserves a lengthy standing ovation when he returns to Foxboro Stadium with the Denver Broncos is one conclusion upon which both sides can readily agree.