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The New England Patriots have used the franchise tag in each of the past four offseasons, but the streak could come to an end Monday, which is the deadline for NFL teams to use the designation.
The top three candidates for the tag are receiver Wes Welker ($11.4 million), cornerback Aqib Talib ($10.8 million) and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer ($9.8 million), but given the high cost for each player on a one-year deal and how that could handcuff the club from making other moves, some will view it as a surprise if the Patriots use the tag. The deadline to assign the tag is 4 p.m. ET.
The Patriots naturally have interest in all three players returning, and if they don't use the tag, the expectation is that they'd still work to re-sign them at different financial terms. From the players' perspective, if they aren't assigned the tag, it sets them up to test the open market without restrictions if they so desire.