Free-agent thoughts, DJax edition

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
6:15
PM ET
Sharing thoughts on some of the big moves around the NFL, as they relate to the Patriots...

The Eagles locking up receiver DeSean Jackson to a five-year extension worth as much as $51 million (Pro Football Talk has the breakdown) could have a trickle-down effect on Wes Welker and the Patriots.

Jackson's pact is the latest big-money deal for a receiver, a topic that was highlighted after Day 1 of free agency in which deals for wideouts dominated the day (link here).

From this view, Jackson's pact further strengthens Welker's negotiating position and calls on the Patriots -- if they truly view Welker as a "contractual priority" as stated in the news release in which they assigned him the franchise tag -- to step up to the plate.

The feeling here is that all the recent receiver deals put the ball in the Patriots' court because their reported offer during the season was for an average of $8 million per season (credit: Boston Globe). That's now below market value for a player of Welker's caliber.

[It's possible the Patriots have since upped their offer, but the team doesn't comment on negotiations.]

If the Patriots disagree that $8 million per year on a multi-year deal is below market value for a player of Welker's caliber, then it will become a year-to-year situation with Welker, who already has the $9.5 million franchise tag in 2012.

If the Patriots use the franchise tag on him again in 2013, it would be $11.4 million.

In that scenario, Welker would get $20.9 million over two years, but would assume two forms of risk: 1) To make it through the 2012 season healthy; 2) And project the Patriots place the tag on him again in 2013, which is no guarantee.

At this point, the team might view the year-to-year option as the preferred approach over a longer-term deal.

Perhaps there's a compromise position in there somewhere, but the feeling from here is that the NFL-wide receiver deals over the last two days put the football in the team's hands to bring the sides closer.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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