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Examining relationship between Patriots, Athletes First 03.19.13 at 11:03 am ET
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In the wake of the back-and-forth going on between the Patriots and agent David Dunn and Brian Murphy of the agency Athletes First, it’s worth examining the relationship between the agency and the franchise. With the departure of Wes Welker, currently, New England has six players on their roster who are repped by Dunn and Murphy. Here’s a look at the deals that have been done between the two sides, all fairly team-friendly deals that have been done relatively quickly.

Defensive end Jake Bequette: The third-round pick in the 2012 draft, Bequette signed a four-year, $2.656 million contract as a rookie. (That deal included a $539,800 signing bonus.) He also has the following base salaries — 2013: $480,000, 2014: $570,000, 2015: $660,000. In addition, Bequette is eligible for annual $5,000 workout bonuses throughout the life of the contract.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard: The seventh-round pick out of Nebraska inked a four-year, $2.157 million contract last year as a rookie. The deal included a $57,848 signing bonus. He has the following base salaries for the upcoming seasons — 2013: $480,000, 2014: $570,000, 2015: $660,000.

Tight end Aaron Hernandez: The crown jewel in the relationship between the Patriots and the agency, this deal represents a great contract for both sides — Hernandez landed a colossal payday before his 23rd birthday, and the team was able to secure one of its’ young stars on a relatively reasonable deal. Last August, the two sides agreed on a seven-year, $41.115 million contract for Hernandez, a deal that included $16.4 million guaranteed, including a $12.5 million signing bonus. Hernandez had the following base salaries for the remainder of the contract — 2013: $1.323 million, 2014: $1.2 million, 2015: $2.3 million, 2016: $5 million, 2017-2018: $6 million. In addition, an annual $500,000 roster bonus is due in years four through seven, and an annual $500,000 workout bonus is available in years three through seven.

Punter Zoltan Mesko: The 2010 draftee signed a four-year, $1,977,250 contract that has a$187,250 signing bonus. In 2013, the punter is slated to make $1.323 million.

Tackle Nate Solder: The first-round pick in 2011 signed a four-year deal as a rookie that is worth $8,540,492. Per Rotoworld, the deal is fully guaranteed and includes a $4,711,268 signing bonus. He has base salaries of $1,151,408 (2013) and $769,806 (2014, which includes a $769,806 roster bonus).

Running back Shane Vereen: The 2011 draftee out of Cal signed a four-year, $3,461,150 contract with the Patriots as a rookie, which included a $1,017,200 signing bonus. In 2013, he has a base salary of $589,650, and in 2014, that bumps up to $746,975. (A $100,000 workout bonus is available in years three and four.)

(Some of the contract information listed here is courtesy of Rotoworld.)

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Tom Brady really wants Wes Welker – ‘a quarterback’s dream’ – back in 2013 12.06.12 at 6:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With all respect to David Dunn and Athletes First, there is NO better agent for Wes Welker than Tom Brady.

We heard Brady say after the team’s most recent win that the Patriots “couldn’t be in this situation” without Welker.

On Wednesday, Brady continued his not-so thinly veiled campaign to persuade the Patriots to keep Welker in New England after this season, when he is again a restricted free agent who could be franchised for approximately $12 million.

Welker is leading the league in receptions (92) and seventh in yards (1,064).  As if to be set up like a ball on the 18th at Pebble Beach, Brady was asked this week again if he marvels at Welker’s consistency on Sundays, about his ability to bring everything in, and his ability to get up after some of the big hits he takes.

Brady drove it 345 yards, with a draw right over the water, and put it right in the middle of the fairway.

“Well, it’€™s not only Sunday; it’€™s Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for him, too,” Brady began. “I think that’€™s the exceptional part: how he takes care of himself. Wes loves to play football. There’€™s nothing more important in Wes’€™s life than being a football player and thinking about football and making the big play and running the right route and getting open when it’€™s most important.

“That’s what quarterbacks dream about too: having receivers that do that. And Wes is everything you look for in his ability, not only when he catches the ball to be an important part of the play, but also on plays when other guys are supposed to get the ball, he busts his butt harder than anybody to make sure he’€™s doing his job to clear out on a certain route or to take some coverage with him so another guy can get the ball. I think that’€™s what makes Wes really special is his selflessness as a player. But the ball always seems to find a way to him.”

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Read More: Athletes First, David Dunn, New England Patriots, nfl
Patriots can officially begin their game of tag Monday with Wes Welker 02.20.12 at 11:21 am ET
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Let the tagging begin.

The window to hit potential free agents with the franchise tag opens Monday and runs through March 5. While enjoying exclusive negotiating rights until free agency opens on March 13, each team has the option to choose one player with an expiring contract who will receive a one-year deal in lieu of a long-term deal or becoming a free agent.

However, under the new collective bargaining agreement, which was signed last offseason, the franchise tag rules have changed slightly. Now, a tagged player will no longer receive the average of the five highest-paid players at his position. Instead, the salary for each tagged player will be determined by a formula that factors franchise tags for the previous five years.

According to, the numbers are down across the board. Here’€™s the position-by-position difference:

‘€¢Quarterback: $14.4 million in 2012; down from $16.1 million in 2011
‘€¢Running back: $7.7 million in 2012; down from $9.6 million in 2011
‘€¢Wide receiver: $9.4 million in 2012; down from 11.4 million in 2011
‘€¢Tight end: $5.4 million in 2012; down from $7.3 million in 2011
‘€¢Offensive lineman: $9.4 million in 2012; down from $10.1 million in 2011
‘€¢Defensive end: $10.6 million in 2012; down from $13 million in 2011
‘€¢Defensive tackle: $7.9 million in 2012; down from $12.5 million in 2011
‘€¢Linebacker: $8.8 million in 2012; down from $10.1 million in 2011
‘€¢Cornerback: $10.6 million in 2012; down from $13.5 million in 2011
‘€¢Safety: $6.2 million in 2012; down from $8.8 million in 2011

In New England, the Patriots have several key free agent decisions, including running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, wide receiver Deion Branch, offensive linemen Dan Connolly and Dan Koppen and defensive ends Andre Carter and Mark Anderson. However, the likeliest candidate for the franchise tag is wide receiver Wes Welker, who just completed a five-year deal he signed just prior to the 2077 season. Welker, who finished with 122 catches for 1,569 yards this year, maintained over the course of the 2011 season that he wanted to return to the Patriots.

‘€œWell, of course I want to stay here,’€ Welker said when asked about his future during the season. ‘€œBut as of right now, I don’€™t really think about it. I just try to focus on this year and everything I can do to help the team this year.’€

‘€œWell, I think Wes wants to be here, and we want him here,’€ said Patriots owner Robert Kraft in January. ‘€œHe’€™s pretty special. Anytime there’€™s a player on this team I can look eye to eye and be at the same level, he’€™s an important guy.’€

The Patriots used the tag on defensive lineman Vince Wilfork in 2010 while they were negotiating a long-term deal with the All-Pro. They eventually reached an agreement on a long-term deal, and rolled that money forward into a new contract.

History would certainly seem to favor the receiver staying in New England. In 2009, Welker changed representation, leaving Vann McElroy and aligning himself with David Dunn of Athletes First. Known primarily as an agency that reps bigger name quarterbacks ‘€” Dunn hammered out a $103 million agreement between the Patriots and Drew Bledsoe back in 2000 ‘€” Dunn and Athletes First have represented Patriots like Aaron Hernandez and Zoltan Mesko, and historically have had a good working relationship with New England.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Andre Carter, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Dan Connolly
Santonio Holmes deal could provide framework for new Wes Welker contract 10.28.11 at 1:18 am ET
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So how much is Wes Welker worth?

The Patriots wide receiver, in the final season of a five-year, $18.5 million deal he signed in 2007, is having a salary run like few others the league has ever seen. Through six games, Welker leads the league in receptions (51), targets (74) and yards per game (130.8), and is second in the league in receiving yards (785). He’€™s just off the pace to shatter the league records for most catches, but can still break the record for most receiving yards in a season — at this rate, Welker will have 136 catches and 2,093 receiving yards.

Asked about his contract situation earlier in the season, he said it’€™s not his focus right now, clearly indicating that he wants to leave that up to his agent, David Dunn.

‘€œWell, of course I want to stay here,’€ Welker said. ‘€œBut as of right now, I don’€™t really think about it. I just try to focus on this year and everything I can do to help the team this year.’€

So what kind of offer should he expect? Andrew Brandt has a unique perspective on situations like this one. He’€™s been on both sides of the table — he’€™s worked as a representative for ProServ and Woolf Associates, was GM of the Barcelona Dragons in the NFL’€™s World League and served as a team vice president of the Packers from 1999 to 2008, negotiating contracts and managing the team’€™s salary cap.

Brandt acknowledged the gold standard for wide receivers is the deal that was signed by Arizona’€™s Larry Fitzgerald in August, who inked an eight-year, $128.5 million contract with the Cards shortly before the start of the regular season.

‘€œOf the recent top-of-market wide receiver contracts, I think it is understood leaguewide that the Larry Fitzgerald contract is an outlier, an eye-popping deal that took advantage of the player’€™s great leverage in eliminating a franchise tag equation in the previous negotiation and coming off of the top wide receiver contract prior to this one,’€ said Brandt, who writes for the National Football Post and also serves as ESPN’€™s NFL Business Analyst.

While that’€™s out of the realm of possibility, Brandt believes there is a comparable deal people might be able to point toward as a possible framework. If Welker does reach the open market, Brandt believes the five-year, $45.25 million deal (with $24 million guaranteed) Santonio Holmes signed with the Jets in July is a good model.

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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Andrew Brandt, David Dunn, Drew Bledsoe
Looking ahead to the contract talks between the Patriots and first-round pick Nate Solder 05.06.11 at 12:52 pm ET
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Despite the labor uncertainty, it’s never too early to look ahead at the possible negotiation process between the Patriots and their draft picks, especially first rounder Nate Solder.

Solder lists his representation as David Dunn and Mark Humenik of Athletes First, which historically has a good working relationship with the Patriots. Known primarily as an agency that reps bigger name quarterbacks (in the past they have worked with Drew Bledsoe, Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, Matt Schaub and Matt Hasselbeck), they represented three members of last year’s draft class in Aaron Hernandez, Zoltan Mesko and Zac Robinson, and all three of those deals were wrapped up relatively quickly. In addition, they also serve as the agency for veteran Patriots Wes Welker and Brandon Meriweather.

By way of historical comparison, last year’s No. 17 overall pick Mike Iupati, was also an offensive lineman (a guard) that ended up going to San Francisco. Before the start of last season, Iupati signed a five-year, $18.25 million contract with $10.8 million guaranteed. No one is sure what the new labor agreement might have in store, but based on last year’s template, because tackle is probably a slightly higher value position that guard, Solder could see a slight bump from what Iupati received.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, David Dunn, Drew Bledsoe, Mark Humenik



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