The two sides have been discussing a new deal, but if one cannot be reached, New England plans to use the $9.5 million franchise wide receiver tag.
Welker, 30, led the NFL with 122 receptions in 2011 but he failed to catch a long pass from Tom Brady in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI that would have put the Patriots in the red zone and might have allowed New England to put away the game, causing him to say he "let the team down."
Welker's 554 receptions since 2007 led the NFL, 80 more than Brandon Marshall's second-highest total.
He and Cris Carter are the only players with two seasons of more than 120 receptions. Besides his 120-catch 2011 season, he had 123 receptions in 2009.
One NFL general manager estimated that, with the cost of the franchise tags decreasing due to the new collective bargaining agreement, as many as 25 tags could be used to restrict player movement this offseason.
The franchise tag used to be based on the average of the top five salaries at that position from last season. In the new CBA, it's based on the average of the top five salaries at that position from the previous five seasons.
Adam Schefter is ESPN's NFL Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.