PHOENIX – Patriots owner Robert Kraft met with media members here at the Arizona Biltmore, site of the 2013 NFL annual meeting, and obviously Wes Welker and Tom Brady were going to be discussed.
Right off the bat, Kraft was asked about what happened with Welker and losing the receiver to the Denver Broncos last week via free agency.
Kraft launched into an unprecedented explanation of the how things went down, including financial details.
“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 began. “I’ll go into limited financial details. You know, 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. The only person in my life who had unlimited financial ability to do whatever they wanted was my late, sweet wife (Myra). Everything else has boundaries.”
Even with those boundaries, Kraft feels the Patriots’ offer to Welker was very fair.
“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,” Kraft said. “We couldn’t do a deal and we wound up franchising him at a very high number [for 2012, $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, our last offer to him.
“So in fact, our offer was better than what in fact he got from Denver.”
While Welker agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal, there are contingencies that make it possible he might not earn the full value of the contract.
Kraft said he’s sad that Welker had to leave, and insisted that everyone in the Patriots’ organization wanted the franchise’s leader in receptions to remain in New England.
“Wes Welker, just to be very clear, was our first choice to be with the team. When free agency came, his agents (Welker is represented by Athletes First, one of the most powerful agencies in the NFL) kept insisting on a very high number that was beyond our number, we had to go work alternatives.
“Our second alternative was Danny Amendola. (Welker) had offers from other teams. So we made a judgment that Wes, unfortunately, probably wouldn’t we be with us. We made this commitment to Amendola.”
Kraft continued that Welker called both him and Bill Belichick on Wednesday to inform them of his offer from the Broncos, but with Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and, by then Amendola – all players who play in the middle of the field – already under contract, “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 interview continued, but that was Kraft’s opening salvo.