If you think the New England Patriots undervalued Wes Welker, you should see the price the team just placed on his jersey.
The Patriots — unwilling to beat a modest contract offer from the Denver Broncos — let their leading pass-catcher join a rival on Wednesday. The next day, the club’s official pro shop at Gillette Stadium slashed prices on Welker gear by as much as 70 percent. Replica jerseys that cost $85 were marked down to $25 on Thursday.
The team was not alone. Other sports apparel retailers wasted little time slapping “sale” tags on everything bearing Welker’s number, 83.
At All Stars at Faneuil Hall, all Welker merchandise was half off. The receiver’s departure instantly devalued his jersey, which was a best-seller, “right up there with Brady,” said manager Gina Cotrone.
Online merchants also put Welker gear on clearance. At FansEdge.com, “Welkah!” T-shirts were reduced from $35 to $17. SportsMemorabilia.com offered a Patriots mini helmet signed by Welker for $88, down from $225, and threw in free shipping.
Welker, a free agent after six seasons in New England, signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Broncos on Wednesday. Most NFL analysts predicted the 31-year-old slot receiver, who leads the NFL with 672 catches since 2007, would command a higher annual salary. Welker made $9.5 million last season.
The relative bargain paid by the Broncos has frustrated many Patriots fans, who feel the team should have bid higher to keep Welker with quarterback Tom Brady, instead of letting him join Peyton Manning in Denver.
Despite Welker’s status as a fan favorite, the market for Patriots apparel with his name on it plummeted, according to retailers.
Bill Howe-Hughes, manager of Sports Authority in Framingham, said the company’s corporate office had not yet authorized a sale on Welker jerseys but added that he “would be surprised if they weren’t marked down by the weekend.”