NEW ORLEANS - Wes Welker had a contractual mud wrestle with the Patriots last year.
When he finally relented on his quest for a multiyear deal and accepted the franchise tag the team applied to him, ownership reportedly bristled when he called his decision a "leap of faith."
That Welker was called on the carpet for that comment after laying down his arms illustrates the tenor of where things have been, business-wise, between the little receiver and the team.
Friday, while at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, Patriots owner Robert Kraft spoke about Welker's contractual situation. The owner this time took a swipe at Welker's representatives.
"I'd love him to be around, he's a great guy," said Kraft. "Like I said all along, it takes two sides to make a transaction and then we have to manage the lawyers and the agents that they don't mess it up. I think Wes wants to be with us and we want him here so it's just a matter of whether both sides can be intelligent."
Welker is an unrestricted free agent.
FOXBORO -- Though he’s still fresh-faced, Patriots cornerback coach Josh Boyer has been on Bill Belichicks’ staff for a dozen years, including the last six presiding over the likes of Darrelle Revis, Aqib Talib, Brandon Browner and Logan Ryan. In all that time, he’s never seen anyone play the position as competitively as Malcolm Butler.
“I would say that’s unique,” Boyer told me today. “It’s one of those things that whether something happens right, wrong or indifferent on that play, you know he’s always gonna be competitive. I think that’s an attribute to just his personal makeup . . . I think all of our guys are competitive but Malcolm is never going to give up the fight no matter what stands in his way or what obstacles he has. He’s always going to be competitive.”
Butler had a unsettling offseason that actually traced all the way back to an in-season contract negotiation that came close but never got completed. When that offer remained the same, and then Stephon Gilmore was paid massive dollars on day one of free agency, Butler, a restricted free agent, shopped himself. But with New Orleans and other teams unwilling to pay the price of a first-round pick, Butler decided he had no choice and returned to Foxboro somewhat reluctantly.
"Can't predict the future," Butler said back on May 25. "Whatever happens, happens."
While Butler wouldn’t commit to wanting to be a Patriot long term, he has made every effort to once again establish himself as the team’s best cornerback while not letting an unsettling contractual situation play play havoc with his on-field performance.
“You guys probably talk about a lot of stuff that we never talk about so we’re just, I’ll give Malcolm credit,” said Boyer, “He’s here. He works hard. We don’t ever talk about other outside issues. It’s all football and I think his focus -- I talked to him yesterday when he was in the building -- he’s excited to be back, excited to work, excited to see what this season holds for him.”