SBD/March 19, 2013/Franchises

Patriots' Robert Kraft Says Wes Welker's Agents "Misrepresented" His Value During Free Agency

Kraft (r) said that he offered Welker more than the Broncos did
Patriots Owner Robert Kraft yesterday "went on the attack," as he was "fiercely protecting his asset, a man staunchly defending his team and his Patriots brand," according to Karen Guregian of the BOSTON HERALD. Kraft "pointed fingers, casting the blame squarely on" Athletes First Chair & CEO David Dunn and Broncos WR Wes Welker's representation for Welker leaving the Patriots. Kraft claimed that Welker's agents "led him down the wrong path because they 'misrepresented' his market value" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/19). In N.Y., Judy Battista notes Kraft's statements "offered an unusual amount of detail from one of the NFL's most tight-lipped organizations." Kraft said that the Patriots "offered a deal that was worth more than the one he took" with the Broncos (N.Y. TIMES, 3/19). Kraft called Dunn's contention that the Patriots never made an offer "bogus." He said, "It just isn't true" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 3/19). Kraft said Welker "has a great agent, but they way overvalued ... as they should." Kraft: "They don't really care about the New England Patriots. They care about getting the best financial deal for their client ... and their compensation is based on that." But in Boston, Ron Borges writes, "Don't waste your breath on how Welker's agent didn't care about the Patriots." The Patriots in the end "played the same game they accused David Dunn of playing." They "only looked out for themselves" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/19). ESPN BOSTON's Mike Reiss wrote there has "never been a time when Kraft had been so publicly pointed in his remarks about an agent." He said, "The agents are doing their job and trying to do the best job they can. But I just think it was a miscalculation of value here, and playing poker" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 3/18). NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said, "It really speaks to the frayed relationship between Wes Welker’s people and the Patriots” (“NFL Total Access,” NFLN, 3/18).

AGENCY OFFERS ITS SIDE OF THE STORY: Athletes First issued a statement this morning responding to Kraft’s comments, saying the company had “tremendous respect” for Kraft and the “entire Patriots organization.” But it offered its take on the negotiations and stated a “lone offer” was made to Welker and “presented as a 'take it or leave it offer.'" Athletes First: "When we asked if there was room for structural changes, we were told no.” 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” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 3/19). ESPN's Chris Mortensen noted it was "unique" that Kraft was "willing to go on the record” about the details involving Welker. However, people could "certainly dispute the facts.” Mortensen said Welker “got more money” from the Broncos and “was actually offered more money by an unnamed third team.” To put that blame on Welker or his agents is an “insult to Wes Welker that he can’t think for himself” (“NFL 32,” ESPN2, 3/18).

PAR FOR THE COURSE: ESPN's Michael Wilbon noted Kraft is an “esteemed owner, not just a successful guy,” but he is “popping off and flexing” over the Welker issue. Wilbon: “I mean 90% of these owners have to flex because they’re richer and more influential and more powerful, and they have to remind fans and sponsors and voters and the media and even their players, ‘I’m King Kong, I’m the boss.’ These are, in most cases, the most ruthless, arrogant, dismissive guys. And even Robert Kraft, who is seen as a good guy widely in addition to being a great owner. They just have to do this every now and then. ... This is NFL ownership” (“PTI,” ESPN, 3/18).

BUCKING BRONCOS: In Denver, Mike Klis writes Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen yesterday "hardly was overwhelmed with embarrassment" following the situation with free agent DE Elvis Dumervil. He said, "Not really. I've been around here for quite a few years. I've seen just about everything. This is not unusual." The Broncos "lured free agents with front-loaded deals rich in cash signing bonuses." Bowlen: "You get what you pay for. These are football players, and we know how good they are and how good they're not. To get them, you pay them" (DENVER POST, 3/19). Klis wrote, "No other team stirred free-agent buzz through the first two days of free agency last week more than the Broncos." And that was "before the Broncos blew up the Twitter world Friday with" the Dumervil "docudrama." Friday "marred what had been an exceptional free-agent period for the Broncos." Maybe not "quite as stirring as the previous year's free agency that placed Peyton Manning on the Broncos' billboard." But Welker "moves the needle as well as the chains" (DENVER POST, 3/17).
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