When the New England Patriots moved to sign Danny Amendola quickly after Wes Welker's departure, I opined that the team preferred Amendola all along. The facts coming out in the wake of the stunning move support the theory.
Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com explains how the move went down in a fascinating piece. My big takeaways:
1. The Patriots "moved close" to locking in a deal for Amendola shortly after free agency started Tuesday. The Patriots and Welker stopped negotiating before free agency opened, and the team basically moved on right away. The terms for Amendola's contract basically were in place well before Welker made his decision.
2. Welker's side of the negotiating table believed Amendola was the Patriots' top choice all along.
3. As NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported, Welker brought the Denver Broncos' offer back to the Patriots at the last minute to see if they would increase their offer. Welker wanted to stay. The Patriots didn't answer right away, according to Reiss, which gave Welker's side hope. Then the Patriots told Welker they already had an agreement with someone else. Ouch.
4. The Patriots and Welker were only $1 million apart on a potential three-year deal last summer. Hindsight is 20-20, but Welker might have missed his best earning potential at that point.
5. New England's two-year, $10 million offer could have reached $16 million with incentives. But Welker believed the incentives were too difficult to reach.
6. Another AFC team joined the bidding for Welker, offering $15 million over two years. So Welker turned down more money to join the Broncos because he wanted to play for a contending team. It's rare to see a player take less money for a chance at a ring. Reiss doesn't identify the mystery team, but ESPN's Adam Schefter later revealed the Tennessee Titans were in on the Welker bidding.
7. Tom E. Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England noted that this showdown was about respect. We agree. It got personal. Curran points out the Patriots didn't have coach Bill Belichick or owner Robert Kraft involved during contract talks at a meeting last summer. It was advisor Floyd Reese, who didn't have the authority to make a deal.
8. Reiss said Brady is "bummed out" about Welker's departure, although Reiss notes the quarterback has been through it before with Lawyer Milloy and Deion Branch.
Add it all up, and you get a clearer picture why a beloved, productive player was allowed to walk away. It was a negotiating standoff the Patriots were determined not to "lose." They didn't truly want Welker back.Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.