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Robert Kraft says keeping Wes Welker was Patriots’ first choice

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Robert Kraft says Wes Welker took less money in Denver (USA Today Sports Images)

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft met with the media on the opening day of the owner's meetings in Phoenix, Arizona and one of the main subjects of conversation was the departure of wide receiver Wes Welker to the Denver Broncos in free agency.

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According to Mr. Kraft, the Patriots were willing to go above market value to pay Welker, who opted to take less money than what New England was offering to join Peyton Manning in the Mile High City.

"In Wes’ case, we were willing to go what we considered above his market value," Mr. Kraft said via Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston. "For a couple years, we tried to get a long-term deal done with him. We couldn’t do a deal and we wound up franchising him at a very high number [$9.515 million]. 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 which is less money than what we offered him. In fact, he has a one-year deal in Denver for $6 million. Our last offer, before we would have even gone up and before we thought we were going into free agency, was a $10 million offer with incentives that would have earned him another $6 million if he performed the way he had the previous two years. But in Denver, he’s going to count $4 million against the cap this coming year and $8 million the second year. There is no guarantee that he plays the second year there. He will get $6 million the first year. Our deal, he would have gotten $8 million the first year – our last offer to him."

Mr. Kraft states that New England's last offer was for $10 million. Welker's two-year deal with the Broncos is worth $12 million, which is either full or partially guaranteed. The deal with the Broncos could be a one-year, $6 million deal, as Mr. Kraft suggests, but if Welker produces as consistently as he has over the last six seasons, that is unlikely to be the case. That the entire amount of the contract is not fully guaranteed at the time of signing gives the appearance that the deal only spans one season, but few teams fully guarantee base salaries in future seasons in multi-year deals as doing so would require the club to fund that amount in an NFL escrow account. That may not be an option for owners with cash flow issues.

The Patriots did not fully guarantee the entirety of Danny Amendola's $3 million base salary in 2014 ($1 million is non-guaranteed) nor did they fully guarantee the 2013 base salaries that Jerod Mayo or Aaron Hernandez will earn in their recent multi-year extensions.

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Speaking of Amendola, Mr. Kraft makes it clear that keeping Welker was the top priority and Amendola, who signed a five-year, $28.5 million contract on March 15, was the alternative.

"When free agency came, and his agents kept on insisting on a very high number that was beyond our number, we had to go work alternatives. Our second alternative was Danny Amendola. He had offers from other teams. So we made a judgment that Wes, unfortunately probably wouldn’t be with us. We made this commitment to Amendola," Mr. Kraft said.

"Wednesday, I personally got a call from Wes and he told me about this offer from Denver. He called Bill as well. We met and we chatted. We have a lot of people, we’ve committed a lot of money to this inside position – you have Gronk, you have Hernandez, you have Danny [Amendola] now – it was just unfortunately a little bit too late. If he had called one day earlier, he would have been with us. And so that, is the Wes Welker story. I’m very sad about it and I wish he would have been with our team."

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