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Wes Welker happy for Gronk, not hurt by Pats' decision

When the New England Patriots signed Rob Gronkowski to one of the richest deals ever for a tight end, it was fair to wonder what it meant for Wes Welker.

The wide receiver has been vocal in his wish for a new deal with the Pats, but the team chose to make Gronkowski a priority.

Considering he's averaged 111 catches the past five seasons, Welker has the right to be upset. To his credit, he's taking the high road in his public comments on the issue.

"I thought it was a great deal. You need a guy like that around here for a long time," Welker said Tuesday of the six-year, $54 million extension that will take Gronkowski through the 2019 season. "He's a great player for us, and having him around for a while is a great deal for us as an organization. I'm very happy for him."

Was the signing hurtful on any level?

"No, not at all, I'm always pulling for the players," said Welker, set to earn $9.5 million this season under New England's franchise tag. "Especially a guy like Gronk, who does such a great job for us and works so hard and deserves every bit of that contract."

Welker would do himself no favors by griping about the issue, but you have to wonder how the Patriots see him. With Gronkowski's deal done, it's unlikely the team can give both Welker and tight end Aaron Hernandez long-term deals without seriously fouling up their salary cap.

Welker is a proven performer deeply embedded in Tom Brady's circle of trust, but at 31, is nearly a full decade older than Hernandez. Gronkowski's signing could free up the franchise tag for Hernandez in 2014, but how much is the team willing to commit to Welker, whose career is closer to the end than the beginning?

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