On Thursday, the Denver Broncos introduced their newest receiver, Wes Welker, and the former Patriot talked about his new job with another AFC powerhouse.
“I’m definitely excited about the opportunity,” Welker said at a press conference in Denver. “I’d definitely like to thank New England for the six years there and all the trust and everything they put in me and the opportunities I got.
“But I’m looking forward to being a Denver Bronco and really trying to help this team win. Getting to play with Peyton [Manning] and a good group of receivers and a good offense, I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Welker signed a two-year, $12 million contract with Denver, not much more than the two-year, $10 million New England put on the table as its last offer, but the Patriots’ franchise leader in receptions felt it was time to move on.
“As free agency kind of went on, you kind of got the feel that you start looking for other opportunities,” he said. “Denver, I felt, would be a great fit for me with their offense and how they run things and everything else. So it worked out.”
As free agency drew closer, reports on the status of talks between the Patriots and Welker’s agents varied greatly. But in the end, the Patriots’ offer made it clear that they didn’t really want Welker back. Even a call from Robert Kraft — who on Monday said he wanted Welker to be a Patriot for life — didn’t sway Welker.
He was asked if he felt undervalued by New England, but Welker didn’t take the bait, saying, “I think that’s all relative. I’m a Denver Bronco now and I’m excited about it. I’m really not looking in the past, just looking forward.”
John Elway, the Broncos executive vice president of football operations, said the team is proud that Welker is with them.
“Once we got into talks, we were able to get it done relatively quickly and we’re thrilled that Wes wanted to come to Denver,” Elway said. “If you look at Wes’s career up to this point, the production he’s had, and really the bottom line is what type of guy he is, the competitor that he is — we talked about it on the phone that he brings great experience playing in the playoffs.
“He’s been there so many times with the Patriots that he’s got an extreme amount of experience in the playoffs, and that’s also going to help us.
“There were just so many things that mixed just right for us. He’ll get to do what he does best inside and play with a guy in Peyton . . . We just feel like he’s a tremendous fit for us.”
The Broncos have two receivers who are threats more on the outside of the field in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, and Welker will now patrol the middle of the field. Manning has had great success with slot receivers over the years, and the 31-year-old Welker will be in that role.
Even though their relationship had its ups and downs, Welker said he and Bill Belichick “wished each other the best and everything else.” He said they were on good terms, but that he hasn’t heard from Belichick since signing with Denver.
Though Elway talked about how happy Denver was to have Welker in the fold, the receiver said it was he who was doing the selling on the potential marriage, not the other way around.
“I was probably the one pitching to him, trying to make this happen,” Welker said. “Finally we were able to kind of get together and get a deal done.”
His pitch to Elway went something like this: “I want to win. That above everything. We’d figure out the money part and all of that stuff later, but that winning was a big thing for me.”
The Broncos were 13-3 last year and the top seed in the AFC playoffs but lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore in overtime in the divisional round.
While Welker will still be playing with a future Hall of Fame quarterback, not being with Tom Brady will be tough.
“That was definitely probably the hardest part, leaving Tom,” Welker said. “He’s a great competitor, great player, great friend, across the board. I wish the best for him.”Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.