The July 16 deadline for signing franchise-tagged players to long-term deals doesn’t apply only to those who have yet to sign their one-year tender offers. Those who have accepted the one-year contract also must complete a multi-year contract before July 16 at 4:00 p.m. ET.
That applies most prominently to Patriots receiver Wes Welker.
Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe reports that, as to the possibility of a multi-year extension, the team and the player currently have a gap of roughly $6 million in guaranteed money.
Welker already is due to earn $9.515 million in 2012. By rule, it would cost the Pats $11.418 million to use the tag again on Welker again in 2013.
And while that justifies Welker seeking $20.933 million guaranteed, it also presumes the Pats would tag him again. Maybe they won’t; maybe they’ll decide to let the undersized wideout hit the market at age 32, forcing him to choose between taking more money with a lesser team or less money to stay with a team that consistently will be in the hunt for a championship that Welker personally has yet to win.
It may be a risk worth taking for the Patriots, who let Randy Moss hit the open market after authoring one of the best seasons for any wideout in league history. Welker seems to be firmly under the team’s spell, signing the franchise tender long before he had to — and then backtracking aggressively on comments he made regarding talks on a long-term deal after it became clear that the team didn’t appreciate his description that the discussions had “actually gotten worse.”
The talks may have gotten no better since then, but it’s hard to imagine Welker being anything other than Tom Brady’s sidekick, even if it means taking less than Welker would get under two years of the franchise tag.