New England Patriots Made a Huge Mistake By Not Offering Wes Welker a Contract

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMarch 18, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 7:   Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots reacts in the end zone after he got past Chris Harris #25 of the Denver Broncos in the first half for a touchdown at Gillette Stadium on October 7, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

More details are emerging regarding wide receiver Wes Welker's departure from the New England Patriots, and while team owner Robert Kraft has placed the blame for the split squarely on the shoulders of Welker's agent, that agent tells a very different story.

Welker's agent, David Dunn, told Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet that the gulf between what the Patriots offered Welker and what the 31-year-old eventually got was much wider than originally believed.

Because the Patriots never made Welker an offer at all:

We spoke cordially for several minutes. He didn't want to be quoted, saying the situation was still "too fresh" but Dunn OK'd my characterizing the conversation and his version of things.

Dunn disputes the idea Welker's market was misjudged.

The Patriots simply didn't want Welker is the contention. The two-year, $16 million offer the Boston Globe reported Welker having dangled during the 2010 season that would have covered Welker in 2011 and 2012 never happened, said Dunn.

No offer was ever made, Dunn contends. Period.

It didn't take long for word of Dunn's comments to make their way to New England owner Robert Kraft, and he gave a much different version of events to Jim Corbett of USA Today:

"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 told a group of reporters at the owners' meeting. "Everyone in our organization wanted Wes Welker back. Anyone who doubts that, or thinks we weren't serious, just doesn't get it.

"I really wanted Wes to be with us through the rest of his career, but it takes two sides to do a deal."

Granted, from all appearances, at least one of these gentlemen isn't exactly being honest, and I'm not going to sit here and try to determine which one that is.

With that said, however, if the Patriots really didn't bother to even offer Wes Welker a contract, then they misplayed this whole affair even more badly than I thought.

This is the part of this article where things get speculative, but the more information that comes out regarding the events that landed Welker in Denver and Danny Amendola in New England, the more that one thing appears clear.

The contention that the Patriots viewed Amendola as a fallback option is not the case.

In fact, I think the Patriots were planning the Welker-Amendola flip all along.

The Patriots entered into negotiations with Amendola's representatives as soon as they were legally permitted to do so during last weekend's "legal tampering" period.

Meanwhile, Welker's agent maintains "that the Patriots didn't want Welker" and "Amendola was the plan all along."

It's not like that, in and of itself, is a huge shock. The Patriots have a long history of jettisoning popular veterans if they feel it will help the team in the long run. It's the "Patriots Way."

Unless your name is Tom Brady, no one's roster spot is set in stone

The writing was also on the wall a bit with Welker. As Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports reported at the time, prior to the 2012 season, the organization was reportedly unhappy when Welker made public comments about his contract standoff with the team.

When Welker's role in the offense was scaled back early in the year, some people speculated that the Patriots were both punishing Welker and preparing the team for a future without its prolific wideout.

However, Welker went on to another 100-catch season, and it's there that the "Patriots Way" has taken a wrong turn in this case.

Supporters of this change point out that Amendola is essentially a younger Wes Welker and that the production of the two receivers prior to Welker joining the Patriots is as similar as their skill sets.

I'll give you that. I'll also grant that the New England offense can be very conducive to production from the slot receiver.

However, the thought that you can just drop Danny Amendola into Welker's spot and not miss a beat just doesn't hold water for me.

First, there's the matter of Amendola's injury history. Amendola has missed 20 games over the past two seasons due to a broken collarbone and dislocated elbow. Meanwhile, Welker missed all of three games in six seasons with the Patriots.

Then there's the not-so-insignificant matter of Welker's rapport with quarterback Tom Brady.

Not only are Brady and Welker good friends off the field, but they also had a very strong bond on it as well. Welker was Brady's safety net, his security blanket, his go-to guy.

Those sorts of relationships aren't formed overnight, and there's no guarantee that Brady and Amendola will ever develop one.

There are also those who point out that Brady was probably none too happy with Welker's departure, but Kraft told Corbett that that isn't the case while making it clear that frankly it doesn't matter one way or the other:

"I don't answer to Tom Brady," Kraft said. "He's an important member of the team and we've chatted. He did what he did to put us in the best position to build a team around him and win games. We've chatted about it."

"But he has never ... it has been reported that he, or people close to him, have made certain comments. None of that is true. I've spoken with him directly. Whomever is creating that impression is mistaken."

Kraft's right. He doesn't answer to Brady, and he and head coach Bill Belichick also don't have to answer to fans or the media. They've built one of the most successful franchises in the NFL over the past decade by doing things their way.

However, in this writer's opinion, this is a decision that the Patriots are going to regret.

Not only is it no sure thing that Amendola will be able to duplicate Welker's success on the field, but if his agent is telling the truth and the Patriots didn't even bother to make Wes Welker an offer, then that lack of respect for a player who did as much for the team as Welker doesn't cast the franchise in a very good light.