FOXBOROUGH - Wes Welker may have done himself a big disservice in contract negotiations with the Patriots Thursday when he spoke publicly about the progress - or lack thereof - in recent talks.
“There have been talks, but nothing that’s brightened anything at all,’’ Welker told the Boston Herald. “It’s actually gotten worse.’’
Welker explained that “worse’’ means the Patriots’ offer is now less than the two-year, fully guaranteed $16 million the team proposed during the 2011 regular season.
Welker’s agents, David Dunn and Brian Murphy, came to Foxborough earlier this week, two league sources said, in an attempt to move negotiations along, but things apparently did not go well. Shortly thereafter, Welker signed his franchise tag, calling it a “leap of faith’’ via Twitter, and then aired his frustrations Thursday.
According to a team source, Welker’s decision to go public in recent weeks about negotiations has not gone over well with the Patriots; two weeks ago, when he made appearances on various ESPN programs, he made reference to holding out at least through full-team minicamp next month. His words have only increased the chances that 2012 will be his final season with the team.
Logan Mankins also called out New England during his prolonged contract standoff with the club, but Mankins was 28 and had never missed so much as a practice to that point in his career. Welker is 31 and suffered a torn ACL two years ago.
The veteran receiver signed his franchise tag, which will pay him a guaranteed $9.515 million for the coming season, on Tuesday.
He potentially hurt his bargaining position by showing that his love of the game and his teammates overruled any desire to play hardball.
As for why he signed the tender, Welker told the Herald, “[Organized team activities] are about to start. The team’s all getting together. You get all these months off and everything else. I don’t know, you’re just kind of bored. You want to be up on the field. If they see me out there at OTAs and minicamps and everything else, and I’m still out there winning and doing what I need to do to help the team win, you know what, the ball’s in their court to make something happen. That’s kind of my mind-set. To go out and show them I deserve it.’’
It is hard to argue that Welker hasn’t already shown that. When he was acquired in 2007 from Miami for second- and seventh-round draft picks, he signed a five-year, $18.1 million contract with the Patriots. Last year, the final year of that deal, Welker made $2.5 million in salary and bonuses; Chad Ochocinco made around $5.75 million. Ochocinco had 15 catches in the regular season; Welker had 16 in a September loss to Buffalo alone.
By league rule, the sides have until July 16 to hammer out a longer-term deal, or Welker must play the coming season under the franchise tag.
The Patriots and seventh-round draft pick Alfonzo Dennard agreed to a four-year contract, a league source said.
Dennard, a cornerback out of Nebraska, fell in the draft after being arrested just days before the draft for allegedly assaulting a police officer outside a bar in Lincoln, Neb.
He was considered by many to be no worse than a third-round pick before his arrest. On Tuesday, Dennard had his first court date and waived his right to have a preliminary hearing; he’ll be arraigned May 30 on a charge of third-degree assault on a police officer.
He is the third member of the Patriots’ draft class to sign, following Tavon Wilson and Jeremy Ebert.
The full Larsen
Given that Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman both saw snaps on offense and defense last year, it may not be long until Spencer Larsen, who played fullback and linebacker with the Broncos, finds himself carrying two playbooks.
For now, though, he is content to compete at fullback with Tony Fiammetta, and contribute any way he can. The return of Larsen’s former head coach, Josh McDaniels, to New England likely played a role in him signing here. Larsen knows McDaniels still likes to use players in that position.
“He just likes to have different things that he can do week to week, so who knows?’’ said Larsen. “I don’t think any of us knows what’s going to happen at that position. You just need to work and get better and let that thing happen naturally.’’
Larsen is excited to be with the Patriots, particularly since he hasn’t been part of a winning football team since his junior year of high school in his home state of Arizona. That streak will likely end this year.
In addition to his history with McDaniels, Larsen also knows two of his new teammates fairly well: He was a senior at the University of Arizona when Rob Gronkowski was a freshman, and he played with Brandon Lloyd with the Broncos.
Larsen could tell Gronkowski had potential.
“Just incredible - you’ve never seen a guy like that,’’ he said. “Big, strong - I swear he looked like he does right now as a freshman coming out of high school. I couldn’t imagine what he did in high school.
“But he was a good player. He’s one of those guys that come around and you feel like, ‘Man, he’s going to be special.’ And so far he’s proved that.’’Greg A. Bedard of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.