NFL Nation: deadline

The deadline for New England Patriots Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker to get a contract extension is about 24 hours away -- and things still look bleak.

A source told ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss this weekend Welker and the Patriots are not expected to reach an agreement before Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. That means Welker will play 2012 on the one-year franchise tag of $9.5 million and become an unrestricted free agent in 2013.

Not much has changed between Welker and the Patriots in the past few weeks. Both sides are talking but progress is slow. The Patriots appear comfortable keeping Welker, 31, on the one-year franchise tag, while Welker wants long-term security.

Either way, Welker said he would not let his contract situation impact his performance. Welker had at least 100 receptions in four of the past five seasons. He is an important part of the offense and that will continue in 2012.

But what happens in 2013 between Welker and the Patriots does not look good. The franchise price tag will increase next year to the point where the Patriots wouldn't pay it. It also appears less likely New England would provide a long-term extension to Welker at 32, when the team isn't expected to do the same a year earlier.

If things play out Monday as expected, this could be Welker's final season as a Patriot. Is this the right call for the defending AFC champions?

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Wes Welker wants a long-term contract extension, but it's the New England Patriots who hold all the cards. That is pretty much what it boils down to with Welker's contract situation.

Despite a recent extension for Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, there has been "no meaningful progress" on contract talks with Welker, a source told the AFC East blog Thursday. Welker is scheduled to play on a one-year franchise tag worth $9.5 million in 2012.

Welker
Time is ticking for the Patriots and Welker. The deadline for working out an extension for players with the franchise tag is July 16. Perhaps the Patriots will have a change of heart over the next month or so. But things aren't looking good as of mid-June.

Earlier this month, we wrote that New England probably has to choose between two of its big three pass-catchers: Welker, Gronkowski and tight end Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots chose Gronkowski first, which was the right move. But the hard part is figuring out whom to keep long term between Welker and Hernandez. Keeping all three beyond 2013 would tie up a lot of salary-cap room on players who have fairly similar roles.

Welker is New England's best receiver but he's 31. Hernandez, 22, is nine years younger with less wear and tear, but New England already has an elite tight end. Welker will become an unrestricted free agent in 2013. Hernandez has two years left on his rookie contract, but the Patriots would probably give him a raise by 2013 as well.

The good news for New England is it doesn't have to make that choice right now. The Patriots have the trio in the fold this season at salaries they are comfortable with. We will know more about New England's future intentions with Welker after July 16.

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