(USA Today Sports Images)It's really early in the NFL calendar to start taking jabs at the representatives of a free agent and preemptively playing the blame game, but Patriots owner Robert Kraft seems to be getting a jump on things.
The Wes Welker issue might become a messy one in New England. In 2012, the Patriots franchised Welker, he expressed some displeasure that he wasn't getting a sizable long-term offer and the Patriots weren't happy he expressed those feelings. There was the really weird situation early in the season in which it seemed the Patriots were punishing Welker by not playing him much, then injuries happened and he finished with 118 catches, 1,354 yards and six touchdowns for the best offense in the NFL.
Welker might be the Patriots' most important player not named Tom Brady, or at least one of the few in the conversation. He knows it, and the Patriots likely know it. But that doesn't mean the contract situation will be easy, and already Kraft seems to be on the offensive, making a general comment about Welker's agent to Comcast SportsNet New England.
"I'd love him to be around, he's a great guy," Kraft said, according to Comcast SportsNet. "Like I said all along, it takes two sides to make a transaction and then we have to manage the lawyers and the agents that they don't mess it up. I think Wes wants to be with us and we want him here so it's just a matter of whether both sides can be intelligent."
Welker's agent is David Dunn. Kraft's comments could be seen as a general comment on third parties in negotiations, but given the Patriots' contract history with Welker, it probably was more pointed than that.
Welker could get the franchise tag again, but that would cost the Patriots more than $11 million of precious salary-cap space. If they don't franchise him and let him hit the open market, there are a lot of teams that would be in line for the fantastic and reliable 31-year-old receiver. Imagine Welker lining up in the slot with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside and Peyton Manning throwing the ball?
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So the offseason will be interesting for the Patriots and Welker. And before the Super Bowl has even kicked off, it looks like there might be a pretty uncomfortable battle of wills.
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