|Robert Kraft says Patriots preferred Wes Welker over Danny Amendola||03.18.13 at 3:54 pm ET|
Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Monday at the owners meetings the organization wanted Wes Welker over Danny Amendola, but that the negotiations led to Welker ending up in Denver and Amendola signing with New England.
“We usually don’t talk about contracts,” Kraft said, according to Comcast SportsNet’s Tom E. Curran. “I’d like to clear up misconceptions about negotiations. Everyone in our organization wanted Wes back.”
Added Kraft: “Wes Welker was our first choice to be with the team. Our second alternative was Danny Amendola.”
According to tweets out of Phoenix, Kraft said that the Patriots were willing to pay Welker “slightly above market value” and said the receiver’s agents “played poker with us.” Kraft also said that that the Patriots’ offer was “better than what he got in Denver and I’m sad about that.”
Welker signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Broncos while Amendola got a five-year, $28.5 million deal with the Pats.
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|Wes Welker on leaving Patriots: ‘The hardest part was leaving Tom’||03.14.13 at 6:09 pm ET|
In his introductory press conference in Denver with the Broncos Thursday afternoon, Wes Welker took some time out to thank the Patriots everything they did for him over the last six seasons.
“I’d definitely like to thank New England for the six years there and all the trust and everything they put in me — the opportunities I got. But I’m looking forward to being a Denver Bronco, trying to help this team win, playing with Peyton, good receivers and a good offense,” Welker said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
One day after agreeing to a two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos, Welker talked about a variety of topics in his Q&A with the media, including the fact that he had to sell himself to Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway. He also said that even though he feels he left on good terms, he added, “as free agency went on, you kind of got the feeling to start looking for other opportunities.”
Welker said the hardest thing was to leave quarterback Tom Brady.
“That was definitely probably the hardest part, was leaving Tom,” Welker said of his relationship with the quarterback. “He’s a great competitor, a great player. A great friend across the board, so I wish the best to him.”
It was widely believed that Brady restructured his own contract in hopes of the team keeping Welker. He was asked if he though he had a better shot at returning after the quarterback re-did his deal.
“Yeah, you never know with those deals,” Welker said. “You just try not to think about it too much. You just try to focus on you. For me, it was just working out and getting ready for next year — trying not to worry about all of that.”
Based on how the talks broke down between his camp and the Patriots, did he feel underappreciated at all?
“I think that’s all relative,” Welker said. “I’m a Denver Bronco now, and I’m excited about it. I’m really not looking in the past on it, just looking forward.”
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|Wes Welker arrives in Denver||at 5:10 pm ET|
The Broncos Tweeted out this picture Thursday of wide receiver Wes Welker meeting Denver’s vice president of football operations John Elway. A press conference has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. for Welker to meet the media.
|What’s next on Patriots’ list of priorities?||at 12:43 am ET|
Now that the Wes Welker situation has reached a conclusion, here’s a quick look at some of the other priorities the Patriots have to focus on in the coming days:
1. Resolve the situations involving their own high-priority free agents: Even though Welker (and Donald Thomas and Pat Chung) is out the door, New England still has some key free agents of their own to worry about, particularly cornerback Aqib Talib and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. There has been remarkably little buzz regarding both of them in the first day or two of free agency, but expect that to pick up in the next few days, particularly in Vollmer’s case as more tackles start to come off the board. In addition, there are other free agents like running back Danny Woodhead, wide receiver Julian Edelman and cornerback Kyle Arrington who have to have their own situations addressed sooner rather than later.
2. Make a decision on wide receiver Brandon Lloyd: He’s due a $3 million bonus if he’s on the roster on March 17. It’s not like this will play a huge role in the decision-making process, but the Patriots are extraordinarily thin at the wide receiver spot right now, even with Lloyd in the fold. At this moment, they have four receivers under contract for the 2013 season — Lloyd, Danny Amendola, Kamar Aiken and Matthew Slater. Even though they are deeper than most at tight end — remember, they have Jake Ballard joining a group that includes Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez — that’s amazing.
3. Continue to work the free agent market: Whether it’s because they are doing a good job keeping it quiet or they just aren’t making much noise overall, other than the Amendola move, they have been remarkably quiet when it comes to kicking the tires on available free agents. It’s important to remember that New England has always played it close to the vest when it comes to operating in free agency, so this isn’t necessarily a surprise. But at this point, roughly 36 hours in, they’ve been one of the more quiet teams. (For what it’s worth, there are some intriguing names out there at some positions of need for the Patriots.)
4. Work the pro days: This period remains a key part of the collegiate scouting process, and with pro days continuing throughout the month of March, several members of New England’s scouting department will be on college campuses throughout the country. On several occasions, player personnel chief Nick Caserio has said that the pro day experience — particularly for players who aren’t invited to the combine — can play a colossal role in the overall evaluation of a potential prospect. In addition, private workouts will continue throughout March and into early April as the Patriots try and get a handle on who they should target in next month’s draft. (In that vein, check out DJ Bean’s story here on whether or not New England should try to go after a wide receiver in the draft in hopes of trying to help replace the production offered by departed free agent wide receiver Wes Welker.)
|Do Patriots still need to look to draft after signing Danny Amendola?||03.13.13 at 9:47 pm ET|
Is Danny Amendola enough to replace Wes Welker? Injury history says no, so the Patriots could keep an eye on what the draft has to offer as far as slot receivers go.
That could be dicey, as drafting receivers has obviously been a dicey affair for Bill Belichick and the Patriots in recent years. The Pats have swung and missed in the second round with guys like Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson, while third-rounders Taylor Price and Brandon Tate also failed to stick around. The best receiver they’ve drafted in the last five years is 2009 seventh-rounder Julian Edelman, a college quarterback.
While there are options in free agency, the Pats may have to turn to the draft to replace Welker. Here are a few guys who could fill his role:
Tavon Austin, West Viriginia, 5-foot-8 4/8, 174 pounds
Austin is the most electric receiver in the draft and his 4.34 40-time turned heads at the combine. Drops are believed to be a potential concern at the next level and he had some hiccups in pass-catching drills in Indianapolis. Still, his overall skill-set would make him a dynamic asset in the slot and a dangerous presence in the return game.
Additionally, Austin models his game after Welker’s.
“Wes Welker, that’s the No. 1 guy,” he said at the combine. “I see how Wes does it, I watch a lot of tape of him, and I think I move a little quicker and faster than Wes, so if he can do it, I know I can do it too.”
The issue with Austin is what it would take to get him. Austin’s stock has risen so much of late that he could potentially be the first receiver off the board, and if the Pats want him, they can’t just sit back and assume that he’ll be there at No. 29. You can argue whether it would be worth it to spend a first-round pick on a slot receiver, but what about moving up for one in the first round when the team doesn’t have many picks (1, 2, 3, 7, 7) to begin with?
Markus Wheaton, Oregon State, 5-foot-11, 189 pounds
A projected second-rounder, Wheaton played both in the slot and outside in college, where he was Oregon State’s all-time leader in receptions with 224. As a senior, he had 91 catches and 11 touchdowns.
Wheaton had a good showing at the combine with a 4.45 40-yard dash. He’s far less executing a prospect as Austin is, but he wouldn’t need to be the focal point of the Patriots’ draft, which is worth considering because they have greater needs than receiver. That could change if they fix their secondary in free agency, but for now, receiver shouldn’t be a first-round priority of theirs. If they want to wait a round and go for someone in the next tier, Wheaton would make sense.
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia, 5-foot-10 2/8, 193 pounds
He flies under the radar because of his teammate in Austin, but Bailey led the nation with 25 touchdowns and was a very productive player in his time at West Virginia. He doesn’t have elite speed like Austin and plays the game of someone with better size, but he’d be a logical slot receiver in the NFL.
“What I see is an instinctive, smart receiver that catches [the ball]; he’s a natural hands-catcher, and because Austin and Geno Smith get all of the attention, he kind of fell into the background,” Mike Mayock said of Bailey at the combine. “But if you watch him in the red zone on tape and his understanding and knowledge of route running and defenses, he’s one of the more smarter and instinctive receivers in this draft. I’d be surprised if he gets out of the third round.”
Denard Robinson, Michigan, 5-foot-10 4/8, 199 pounds
This would be a bit of a project and a guy the Pats could roll the dice on if he’s there in the later rounds. Robinson played quarterback for the vast majority of his college college career (much like Edelman) before being moved to receiver/running back late in his senior season, and his great athleticism and speed make for a pretty intriguing prospect as a slot receiver. His 4.42 40-yard dash was fifth among wide receiver prospects in Indianapolis, but that shouldn’t be a surprise when considering he was also a sprinter for the track and field team at Michigan.
Robinson is planning on throwing at his Pro Day this week, but it is to show how well he’s healed from an elbow injury. His intention is to play receiver at the next level, but how well he adjusts to a still relatively new position at a new level remains to be seen. He’d definitely be a risk/reward pick.
In the end, it was a two-year, $12 million deal that pried Wes Welker from the Patriots — pocket change for an elite slot receiver who was the first guy in NFL history to catch at least 100 passes five times in a six-year stretch.
If the reports are true — that New England’s best offer was a two-year package for $10 million — it’s a sudden and shocking end to a remarkable run in New England for Welker. The receiver, who arrived in New England via a trade with the Dolphins prior to the start of the 2007 season, became the first guy in NFL history in 2012 with at least five seasons of 100 or more receptions. In six seasons in New England, he caught 672 passes for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns.
In all, the undersized pass catcher was an absolutely integral part of the success of the Patriots’ offense the last six years. No one did a more consistent job moving the chains in the passing game – not Rob Gronkowski, not Aaron Hernandez and certainly not Brandon Lloyd — and even at the age of 31, he remains one of the most durable receivers in the league.
Despite the words from Patriots owner Robert Kraft — who said earlier this week that he hoped Welker would “remain a Patriot for life, just like Tom Brady” — it’s hard not to suggest that there something else was at play here, something deeply personal between the two sides that bled over into the talks. How else do you explain what happened? Read the rest of this entry »
|Wes Welker agrees to two-year deal with Broncos||at 4:56 pm ET|
Wes Welker is no longer a Patriot.
The 31-year-old slot receiver, who put up record numbers in his six seasons in New England — he caught at least 100 passes in five of those years — signed a two-year deal with the Broncos on Wednesday afternoon, according to a tweet from Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway. The tweet read, “Agreed to terms on a 2-yr deal with Wes Welker. Excited to have Wes join the Broncos. His production & toughness will be a great asset!” Multiple reports state the deal is worth between $12 million and $14 million over the length of the contract.
Welker, who arrived in New England via a trade with the Dolphins prior to the start of the 2007 season, became the first receiver in NFL history in 2012 with at least five seasons of 100 or more receptions. Overall, in six seasons in New England, he caught 672 passes for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter was first to report the story.
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