(Photo courtesy of @BroncosTV on Twitter)
The NFL, well their owners and general managers, have convened in Phoenix, AZ, for the annual NFL Owner’s Meeting. This is why free agency has gone mostly quite so far this week.
Robert Kraft was not very quiet yesterday. Kraft is the owner of the New England Patriots and has been for 19 years as he is quick to point out. Being vehement about his tenure is not the only thing that he is exact about, he likes to point out exacts in the form of contract numbers as well… Especially when they may be different than what a former employee or that former employee’s agent may have revealed to the press.
In this case that former employee is a current Denver Broncos wide receiver — Wes Welker. Kraft is immediate to say that it is the Patriot’s policy not to discuss contracts, but for Welker he will make an exception. Welker being a man that has done so much for New England’s football team in jersey sales, ticket sales, licensing fees, statistics, trips to the Super Bowl and continuing the Patriot’s sold out streak for the 19th year in a row. Why wouldn’t an owner, a billionaire, want to talk about the amount of money that his company offered the man to stay. The wealthy often love to discuss monetary matters to the press, what could be more couth?
*The notes in brackets are mine:
“I really believe in this case, his agents misrepresented, in their mind, what [Welker's] market value was [is?]. When you come right down to the bottom line, he accepted a deal in Denver which is less money than what [the Patriots] offered him. In fact, he has a one-year deal in Denver for $6 million [note: Welker has a two year deal for $12 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 [note: Welker will count $6 million against the cap this year] and $8 million the second year [note: Welker will count $6 million against the cap the second year]. There is no guarantee that he plays the second year there [note: there is no guarantee that he will play the first week in Denver]. 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 [in fact] he got from Denver. I’m just really sad about that. Everyone in our organization, including our head coach – I sat in a number of meetings, we discussed this very carefully. Just to clear up any misconception, we wanted Wes back.”
Of course they did, who wouldn’t want Wes Welker on their football team?
So, Kraft seems a bit confused about the deal that Welker got from the Broncos, but it doesn’t change the fact that Kraft is pointing out that New England offered Welker more money than Denver did. At least in the first year of the contract. Welker’s contract for 2014 with the Broncos is not guaranteed, as Kraft points out, but would it have been with the Patriots? Kraft never said. What he did point out (incorrectly) is that Welker will count $4 million against the Broncos’ salary cap in 2013 and $8 million against the Broncos’ salary cap in 2014 and apparently this wasn’t something that the Patriots were going to be able to match.
So either Kraft is confused, wrong or lying.
Kraft went on to say that Welker did reach back out to New England, calling both Kraft and Patriot’s head coach Bill Belichick to inform them of Denver’s offer.
“Wednesday [note: March 13th, the day Welker signed with the Broncos], I personally got a call from Wes and he told me about this offer from Denver. He called Bill 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 [Welker] 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.”
One day earlier of course would have been Marth 12th, the day that NFL free agency began. An offer on from Denver to Welker on the first day of free agency in 2013 may have been offered, but Welker likely would have needed at least a little time to consider his options.
“If [Welker] had come to us and said ‘the gap was the $2 million’ [note: the only $2 million dollar gap up to this point seems to be the fact that Kraft believes the Patriots were offering $2 million more than the Broncos for the first year] – which on the surface everyone believes that’s what it is – that would have been closed in a second,” Kraft continued on, shortly after indicating that Welker did in fact come to not only the owner of the team (him), but to the head coach of the team as well.
“I really think, and I’m not saying … he has a great agent but I think they way overvalued; as they should,” although by this point in the interview Kraft has stated that the Patriots had offered the free agent wide receiver more than the Broncos had. “I think our modus operandi has been OK. On the other hand, I think this is a situation that we really wanted to happen with Wes and it’s very unfortunate.”
Very unfortunate indeed. For New England, because if the Patriots did in fact offer Welker more money, then Welker chose the Broncos for some other reason — likely the fact that he believes that they have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl.