Wes Welker signed a two-year deal worth $12 million with the Broncos. / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Athletes First, the firm that represents Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, has issued a statement to counter the claims made by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who told reporters at the NFL's league meetings in Arizona on Monday that Welker's agents "misrepresented" their client's value and took less money than what the Patriots were offering.
The statement, which was emailed to USA TODAY Sports by Brian Murphy, one of the agents at the firm who personally handles Welker's business, expresses "tremendous respect" for Kraft while claiming the organization didn't show much flexibility during the talks by declining to work on the terms of an offer made before free agency.
"This lone offer was presented as a 'take it or leave it offer,'" the statement read. "When we asked if there was room for structural changes, we were told no. We made a counteroffer for the same term and same maximum dollar amount as their offer 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.
"Nevertheless, when we received the Denver Broncos' offer, Wes personally talked to Mr. Kraft to give the Patriots the opportunity to match it. The Patriots rejected this opportunity and Wes signed with the Denver Broncos."
Welker signed a two-year deal worth $12 million.
Athletes First claims the only offer the Pats made since the end of negotiations last July, when Welker signed a one-year franchise tag for $9.5 million, was the proposal made just before the start of free agency this year. The firm claims the offer came "just hours before the start of free agency despite discussions that began" at February's scouting combine in Indianapolis.
"Moreover, despite Mr. Kraft's impression to the contrary, the Patriots representatives who participated in these phone calls never indicated that the team 'would have even gone up' on their offer, or that these discussions occurred 'before we thought we were going into free agency,'" the firm's statement read. "Instead, the Patriots made it abundantly clear that their one offer was non-negotiable. Athletes First has no issue with this approach and casts no blame on either side for a deal not being consummated. However, we believe it is important that the negotiations are accurately portrayed in the media."
Welker will return to Gillette Stadium this fall when the Broncos face the Patriots in a yet-to-be-scheduled game.
"That Wes deserves a lengthy standing ovation when he returns," the firm states, "is one conclusion upon which both sides can readily agree."
The fans will make that decision, now that they have two accounts of how the negotiations to keep Welker in New England failed.
Asked about the controversy on Tuesday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said, "I think Wes was everything we hoped he'd be when we traded for him. He was tough, competitive and very productive.
"I think what Robert said (Monday) covered it pretty clearly. I don't have anything to add to that."
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Read the original story: Welker's agents: Pats' offer was take-it-or-leave-it