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Sunday, March 4, 2012
Tag deadline day for Welker

By Mike Reiss

Monday at 4 p.m. ET marks the deadline for teams to assign the franchise tag on players, and the Patriots plan to do so with receiver Wes Welker.

Here are some of the quick hits when it comes to Welker, the Patriots and the franchise tag:

1. Negotiations stretch back to fall. The sides had been talking about an extension, on and off, as far back as the fall. Prior to the NFL combine in late February, talks weren't active. But over time, both sides have said publicly they'd like to continue working with each other.

2. Setting the franchise figure. A franchise tag for Welker would be approximately $9.4 million on a one-year term, and restrict Welker from fully experiencing free agency. If another team signed him to an offer sheet, and the Patriots didn't match, the team signing Welker would have to surrender two first-round draft choices. That's a high price that makes such a move unlikely. The $9.4 million would be guaranteed once Welker signs the tender. The first day Welker could sign the tender is March 13, when the new league year begins.

3. Welker prefers long-term deal. While the $9.4 million is a nice figure on a one-year term, a long-term contract is preferred because it would provide even more security in the form of bonuses and guarantees. Welker, who is now represented by David Dunn of Athletes First, probably also feels as if he significantly outperformed his previous five-year contract that paid him between $18 million and $21 million. On the team side, there might be some reluctance on committing long-term to a receiver who will be 31 on May 1, as receivers sometimes slow down in their mid-30s.

4. Updating who's been tagged. Across the NFL, 11 players have been assigned the franchise tag entering Monday. None of the tags truly impact Welker. The only other receiver who has been tagged is the Eagles' DeSean Jackson.

5. Assessing the market for Welker. In attempting to craft a fair deal for both sides, ESPNBoston.com previously put together a contract proposal that creates a snapshot of the potential market for Welker. The Boston Globe reported Sunday that the Patriots offered Welker a two-year, fully guaranteed $16 million contract during the season, which was rejected.

6. History of the Patriots' franchise tag usage. As this detailed look at the Patriots' franchise tag usage shows, the team has waited until the final day to use the tag. In recent years, the tag has been used as a way to buy more time before striking an extension (e.g. Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins). The team is likely to say the same thing with Welker.