GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 20, 2013

Welker, and his agents, blew opportunity to stay with Pats

On Pro Football
Bill Burt

---- — The Wes Welker Drama of the last few weeks, we are finding out in bits and pieces this week, didn’t have to be a drama after all.

In fact, it now appears that Welker probably should have been a New England Patriot for the next two years.

According to two NFL sources, Welker’s representatives, David Dunn and Brian Murphy, appear to have botched the negotiations for their star wide receiver, who signed with the Denver Broncos last week.

“He still should be a Patriot,” said an NFL source. “Their agents gambled that his price tag would be much, much higher than what he agreed to with the Broncos. They had hoped a bunch of teams would be around the $7 million or $8 million range, per year.”

Monday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft reiterated the same point, stating, in the end, Welker took less money to leave the team he played for since 2007.

It has been learned that Welker’s touted two-year “guaranteed” deal with the Broncos, for $12 million has a few “outs” in it for the Broncos, really only guaranteeing only half that amount.

It could also be argued that the deal is not as good as the two-year, $10 million guaranteed deal the Patriots offered him at the beginning of free agency, which included bonuses that could have made it worth $16 million over two years.

While Welker’s representatives reportedly claimed the incentives as “difficult to reach,” if Welker hit on all of the same stats and won the same awards he won in 2011, he would have received $16 million combined in 2013 and 2014. If he hit on some of those incentives, Welker could have received anywhere from $12 million to $14 million over the two years.

Before last season, the Patriots reportedly were told by Welker’s representatives that they would not accept less than $20 million guaranteed, which would have been a little less than the sum of the “franchise tag” for Welker in 2012 ($9.5 million) and 2013 ($11.4 million).

What Welker had going for him was his incredibly consistent production on the field. He has led league in receptions in 2007, 2009, and 2011, and became the first receiver in NFL history to have three consecutive 110-reception seasons. He had been selected to the Pro Bowl five times (2007-through-2011) and the All-Pro Team four times (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011).

An impressive resume, yes. But his position, as “slot receiver,” apparently doesn’t receive the respect the speed-burners on the outside do.

While Dunn and Murphy were trying for $20 million-plus in guarantees, the Patriots, the Eagle-Tribune has learned, tried for three-year contracts with guarantees in the $18 million to $19 million range.

In fact, Welker’s representatives let it be known that the Patriots offered their client two years for $16 million, all of it guaranteed. The Patriots told Dunn and Murphy that offer might not be there next year (this off-season) because he would be a year older, the market might change and the salary cap could change.

When a deal couldn’t be hammered out, the Patriots franchised Welker in order to keep a key part of the offense on a Super Bowl-contending team. Even if it was a few million more than they wanted to spend, it was smart business.

The problem, according to an NFL source, was that $9.5 million franchise tag left Welker’s representative with higher expectations going forward.

The Patriots, it is believed, tried to find some common ground with on Welker remaining with the team at the NFL Combine in the third week of February. Dunn and Murphy thought they were still being low-balled.

What Dunn and Murphy were doing is anyone’s guess. They had a year to figure out the market for their client. They had the combine to figure out the market. They had a three-day legal tampering window to figure out the market.

Were they the only people in the world who didn’t know the cap was extremely tight this year for a lot of teams, as many teams have released players appearing to be still near the prime of their careers? The defending Super Bowl champions Ravens have already seen five key starters leave over money.

Amendola’s role

While much has been said and written about Welker’s “sour” relationship with Bill Belichick, there is another person that had more to do with Welker’s exodus from New England — Danny Amendola.

Welker, who turns 32 in May, and Amendola, 27, have a lot in common. Both played at Texas Tech. Both played slot receiver. Both were undrafted. And both slowly worked their way into a starting role in the NFL.

While he’s had two major injuries over the last two seasons, forcing him to miss 20 of 32 games, his 15-catch, 160-yard effort in a 31-28 win over Washington on Sept. 16 and his 11-catch, 102-yard day in a 24-24 tie with San Francisco on Nov. 11 had a lot of people comparing him to the guy he is replacing in New England.

According to a source, Amendola started out as a backup plan in case Welker would not agree to a deal with the Patriots. When Welker’s representatives didn’t respond to the Patriots contract offer last weekend, the Patriots became a serious suitor for Amendola.

When free agency officially started last Tuesday — legal tampering was from Saturday through Monday — Amendola’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, pushed the Patriots for an answer. Both sides worked for a few hours before agreeing to terms. According to a source close to the negotiations, Amendola had a commitment in St. Louis on Wednesday and couldn’t fly to Foxboro.

The contract was signed Tuesday night and was sent via fax at 8:51 p.m. from Burkhardt’s offices to the Patriots, according to sources.

Reports surfaced the next day that Dunn and Murphy, in negotiations with the Broncos, had made a last ditch call to the Patriots on Wednesday to see if they had a counter offer.

They were told it was too late, that Amendola had already signed a new contract the night before.

It was not a banner negotiation for Dunn and Murphy, who led Welker to believe they would be able to get him at least $20 million or more in guarantees and/or about $8 million to $9 million per year.

Belichick has received a lot of criticism of late due to his dealings with Welker, and the fact that a personality clash may have led to their split.

But it appears it had more to do money and gambling, which in the end didn’t appear to pay off for Welker.

If the goal of Welker’s representatives was to stay with the Patriots and get the most money they could for their client, they failed.

If their goal was to leave and get more money elsewhere, like Adam Vinatieri, Richard Seymour, Ty Law and Asanta Samuel did in previous years, they failed.

If their goal was to leave and make less money than they would have over the next two years here in New England, well, Dunn and Murphy succeeded.