|Welkers will reportedly get the franchise tag from New England. (Getty Images)|
We've mentioned Wes Welker's name several times over the past few weeks. Once as our pick for the top available free-agent wide receiver and previously as a player on whom the franchise tag would probably be used.
And that appears to be the case: according to a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Patriots "are likely" to utilize the franchise tag and place it on Welker before the March 5 deadline, in order to prevent Welker from hitting the open market. If Welker signed his tender, he would receive a guaranteed, one-year salary of $9.5 million.
There was some belief that the Patriots wouldn't commit that much cash in guaranteed money to Welker and would let him test the market and then attempt to re-sign him at a lower rate than what Welker reportedly wants (it's believed he wants to be paid somewhere in the range of $14 to $15 million per year).
Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald reported on Saturday that the logic behind the Patriots change of heart is that the market for Welker in free agency would be "incredibly active."
The last time New England used the franchise tag, things did not go smoothly. Logan Mankins, one of the defendants in the Lockout Lawsuit, held out for seven games after the labor crisis was resolved.
And there's a chance that a similar stand-off could occur with Welker if the two sides don't reach a long-term deal. Welker's critical to the Patriots offense -- he has 554 receptions and 6,105 receiving yards since 2007 -- but he would also like to be paid like one of the top wideouts in the game and given his age and previous injury history, the security of one more big contract.
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