Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network mentioned that the Patriots intend to use their franchise tag on WR Wes Welker if they’re unable to reach a long-term agreement with him before the March 5th deadline for franchise tags.
“They’ve been trying all season to get a deal done,” said Lombardi, “but it hasn’t come to fruition yet. … They’re not going to lose Wes Welker. He’s going to be a part of their team.”
The Patriots are believed to be willing to offer Welker a two or three year contract but he’s been holding out hope for a better deal. The tag will cost the Patriots $9.4 million which is a drop of almost $2 million since last season. Welker will be 31 at the start of the 2012 season and his ability is derived from his speed so it could be that the Patriots are reluctant to commit to a long-term deal because his production is susceptible to a decline in the coming years. That’s purely speculative but slot receivers must be fast enough to beat young cornerbacks and the recent market for wide receivers in their mid-to-late thirties hasn’t exactly been that great.
We have Welker listed as the #18 best available free in our Top 50 Free Agents list.