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The stunning events that led to receiver Wes Welker signing with the Denver Broncos on Wednesday, and the New England Patriots filling the void with Danny Amendola, came down quickly behind the scenes, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
The breaking point came Tuesday in the mid-afternoon before the official start of free agency, when the Patriots and Welker's representatives halted contract talks. The team's offer, a two-year, $10 million pact with incentives that could have pushed it as high as $16 million but in the eyes of Welker would be extremely difficult to reach, wasn't accepted.
At that point, Welker and his representatives intensified their pursuit of other offers, and it helped that some groundwork had previously been laid with the Broncos. Likewise, the Patriots turned their attention to Amendola, who was their top choice if things didn't work out with Welker (and in the eyes of some on the other side of the negotiating table their top choice all along).
Things came together quickly with the Patriots and Amendola on a five-year, $31 million deal with $10 million guaranteed, and at that point, there was no looking back for the team. While the Patriots would have been pleased if Welker accepted their proposal -- owner Robert Kraft said Monday that he hoped Welker would retire as a Patriot -- the possibility of losing him and Amendola was deemed too risky, so they moved close to locking in the deal with Amendola not long after free agency began Tuesday. ...
... Yet even after Welker received a two-year, $12 million offer from the Broncos on Wednesday, a call was made to the Patriots to see if the club would sweeten its offer. ... Ultimately, the club informed Welker and his representatives that they had entered into another commitment, which Welker's camp assumed all along was Amendola.