Who's Really to Blame in Wes Welker vs. New England Patriots Contract Fiasco?

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IMarch 19, 2013

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft will attempt to make you think otherwise, but if his franchise truly wanted receiver Wes Welker back next season, he could have put his money where his mouth is.

The Patriots had two full years and a few months into 2013 to get a long-term deal done that would have kept Welker in New England.

Instead, the two sides constantly butted heads, fought over values and eventually split, as Welker walked away from New England's final offer for a chance to play with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos

Kraft, speaking at the NFL owners meetings this week, tried to make Welker's side sound like the villain (via Kareem Copeland of NFL.com):

In retrospect, I wish we could have wrapped that into an arrangement where it was part of a longer-term deal. But I really believe in this case, his agents misrepresented, in their mind, what his market value was. When you come right down to the bottom line, he accepted a deal in Denver that is less money than what we offered him.

But that's not the entire story, and Kraft knows it. 

While the Patriots' offer might have technically possessed more money than the two-year, $12 million deal Welker signed with Denver last week, there are some important stipulations to know about New England's offer.

According to Albert Breer of NFL.com, the Patriots added several contract incentives in their final offer, all of which had very aggressive targets. While the total value of the deal could have reached $16 million over two years, Welker would have had to hit the following escalators:

-All-Pro in each of the two years, $1 million

-1,500 receiving yards in each of the two years, $1 million

-Pro Bowl starter in 2014, $1 million

-1,300 yards in 2013, $1 million

Welker has been All-Pro four times and a Pro Bowler five times, but only once has he cracked 1,500 receiving yards (2011). In his 10th NFL season, Welker hitting all of the incentives would have been near impossible.

Of course, this all means that Welker's deal in New England was never going to be worth $16 million. 

It appears that the Patriots were stubborn in changing their final offer, too. 

Breer received an email from Athletes First, who represent Welker, on how New England reacted to their counter offers:

When we asked if there was room for structural changes, we were told no. We made a counter-offer for the same term and same maximum dollar amount and it was rejected. We inquired if any of the offer's components were negotiable and were told no. This refusal to actually negotiate made it easy to reject the Patriots' offer.

The Patriots made a final offer and then stuck to it. The decision backfired. 

In truth, each side is likely trying to paint the other as the bad guy. It's only natural when defending negotiation decisions like those made by both the Patriots and Welker.

However, Kraft and his front office had ample opportunity to give Welker an offer that would have kept him in New England and made Denver a moot point. 

In the end, details that probably should have been worked out and adjusted from the Patriots' side weren't. They stuck to their guns, hoping to get a team-friendly deal. Welker responded by bolting to Denver for a modest $6 million a year. 

The Patriots could have easily outbid the Broncos. Instead, they lost out on the gamble to get him back on the cheap.