New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, who was tagged as the Patriots’ franchise player last month and has yet to sign his tender or participate in voluntary workouts, said Tuesday he has not had any talks with the team on a long-term deal since being tagged and did not think he would attend mandatory minicamp if there wasn’t progress toward a long-term deal.
“Through my body of work, through the past five years, I think what I’ve done I’ve earned a long-term deal,” he said in an interview with Adam Jones on ESPN Boston Radio on Tuesday (listen to the interview HERE). “It’s what I am looking for and what I want. Hopefully that’s the case and hopefully we come to something where we can make that happen.”
The soon-to-be-31-year-old Welker said he hasn’t spoken with the team about the contract extension he is seeking since the team placed the franchise tag on him in early March.
He was not present for the start of the Patriots’ voluntary workout program last week and sounded like he was leaning toward sitting out the mandatory workouts -- minicamp from June 12-14 -- as well.
“I’m not 100 percent sure on that. I don’t know if I will or not. I’m thinking I’m probably not going to (attend mandatory workouts), but things could change,” Welker told ESPN Boston Radio. "We’ll just see how it all plays out.”
Welker acknowledged that with the NFL draft coming up Thursday, coach Bill Belichick has been singularly focused on that rather than on a veteran’s contract status.
“I’m sure with the draft and everything else, there’s a lot of other things that kind of take place,” Welker said. "And you know how coach Belichick works ... right now he’s in draft mode. And I’m sure after the draft, you know, hopefully we’re able to come together and hopefully figure something out.”
Welker would be guaranteed $9.5 million for 2012 if he signs the tender. As long as he does not sign the tender, he is not under contract and does not have an obligation to report to any voluntary or mandatory team events. Teams have until mid-July to work out a new deal or franchised players will have to either play 2012 under the tag or sit out.
The biggest step, of course, would be to sit out training camp, which starts in late July. So far, the only thing Welker has missed is the start of voluntary workouts.
“I just feel that this was the best, really the only, leverage I had is to take this route,” he told ESPN Boston Radio. “It’s not a route I thought I’d ever take, just because that’s not me. It’s just kind of the spot I’ve been put in.”
Would anything shy of a long-term deal convince him to report without a contract?
“Yeah. It could, just depending on what their mood it, where they’re at … what kind of progress we make,” Welker said.
The Patriots are no strangers to these kinds of situations. Logan Mankins missed most of a season before finally signing his restricted free-agent tender and didn’t get his long-term deal until the following offseason. Asante Samuel was tagged by the team, held out and eventually signed with the Eagles (updated, 3:50 p.m. ET).
In each case, the player argued that he was seeking long-term security. The same goes with Welker.
“You want that long term deal and that security. Toward the end next season if we’re still in the same spot it’s going to be the same scenario again. I’ll be sitting on another winning lottery ticket and all I have to do is stay healthy through the next year,” Welker said. “It’s kind of hard as a player because you just want to go out there and play and be able to do everything you want to do and play well and not worry about getting hurt or getting injured. Just go out there and enjoy the game and play it to the best of your ability and not have those worries.”
Often times, these types of contract situations can get contentious. Welker said Tuesday he understood it was just business.
“It’s pretty consistent for everybody in that scenario. I understand it’s nothing against me or anything else, it’s just the way it is,” Welker said. “You just have to go with it and understand that your opportunity will come and you have to make the best of it.”
He added that he wanted to finish his career in a Patriots uniform.
“Obviously I want to stay in New England, that’s objective No. 1,” he said. “Hopefully we can make that happen. Really that’s all I look toward. I don’t see it going any other way, but it is still part of the business and some of the things we have to figure out."