Monday, March 18, 2013
Opinion: Unprecedented barrage
By Mike Reiss
PHOENIX -- At the end of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's meeting with reporters on Monday, in which he fired salvos at the agents for receiver Wes Welker -- blaming them for Welker's defection to Denver -- a question was posed to him:
In his family's 19 years of ownership, there had never been a time when Kraft had been so publicly pointed in his remarks about an agent.
"I think there is a lot of misconceptions. I think how our coach felt. How I felt. I don't get involved very often, [but] this was one that was really important," Kraft said Monday at the NFL annual meeting. "The agents are doing their job and trying to do the best job they can. But I just think it was a miscalculation of value here, and playing poker. Unfortunately, the player and the team both got hurt."
The tipping point might have come Sunday when agent David Dunn, in a conversation characterized by Tom E. Curran of Comcast SportsNet, said that the Patriots never made an offer, furthering a perception that the Patriots didn't want Welker.
Kraft looked furious when Dunn's contention was brought up to him and that's when Monday's Q&A got a little testy. Two years of frustration was boiling to the surface.
So he let it rip.
Here's why I think he did:
In most negotiations, everyone knows that one side starts high, the other side starts low, and most often if both are committed to strike a deal they meet somewhere in the middle. But there has to be common ground on a general ballpark as to the initial range of numbers in play.
If you lived in a neighborhood where houses cost between $200,000 and $300,000, it wouldn't make much sense to list the home at $600,000 when it was time to sell. That house is going to sit on the market.
For two years, in the Patriots' view, Welker was listed as the $600,000 house.
So after banging their heads against the negotiating table for almost 24 months, in which Welker's representatives insisted on at least a $15 million signing bonus in every offer, the Patriots ultimately made the decision to move on when the first day of free agency arrived and Welker's representatives -- after a three-day legal tampering period that allowed them to get a feel for the market -- still hadn't budged.
Only when the Patriots put an offer on a new house the first day it came on the market, and it was accepted, did the price of the $600,000 home that had been the target for two years come plummeting down and down and down and down and down and down to a level more in line with the rest of the neighborhood.
But it was too late. And that's why, from this view, Kraft did something he has never done in his 19 years as owner of the Patriots by publicly calling out an agent.
This was a silly game, one that didn't have to happen.