One of the biggest stories for the New England Patriots this offseason has been the contract negotiations between the team and free agent wide receiver Wes Welker. The Patriots decided to place the franchise tag on the pro bowler with negotiations reportedly not going well. With the Patriots giving tight end Rob Gronkowski a six-year extension Friday afternoon, it could spell the end of Welker’s career in New England.
While Welker continues to negotiate with the Patriots for a contract extension, the team gave Gronkowski a new six-year deal worth $54 million. This is with Gronkowski still having two years remaining on his contract and coming off an ankle injury. NFL players, especially star players, want to believe their contract talks are the most important on the team and this deal for Gronkowski shows Welker that his deal might not be first on the table. This could extend the rift between two sides that already seem to be pretty far apart.
Welker has become the number one receiver for the Patriots over the past few years being selected to four consecutive pro bowls between 2008 and 2011 and earning two first-team all-pro honors in 2009 and 2011. With those accolades, Welker believes that the Patriots would do whatever they could to bring him back with a contract extension. However, that currently doesn’t seem to be the case.
Certainly Gronkowski was going to get a contract extension after having a record setting season in 2011. But he’s coming off an injury at the end of the season while Welker is healthy. Also, Gronkowski still has two years remaining on his current contract while Welker is going into 2012 on a franchise tag. For a player in the middle of contract dispute, this won’t help the negotiations.
Commenting to the media on the day that he signed his tender Welker didn’t sound very positive that an agreement could be coming in the near future. With this latest news, it seems that Welker could break off negotiations completely feeling disrespected by the Patriots. If so, 2012 will likely be his final season and he will look for a job elsewhere in 2013.