As the franchise-tag window opens, the player on the Patriots most likely to receive it is receiver Wes Welker.
The best way to avoid it is to do a long-term deal. But Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald reports that, to date, no “breakthrough” has been made.
The team and the player surely disagree on his value. He has generated tremendous stats over the years, with 554 catches in five seasons — including 111 in the season that included a Week One torn ACL for Tom Brady. But Welker isn’t regarded as a field-stretching, game-plan-busting talent.
Welker’s desire to stay will be a factor, even though his agent, David Dunn, may prefer to see Welker prop up one of the various Dunn clients who play quarterback elsewhere (e.g., Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel, Carson Palmer). But if the gap is big enough, Welker will be inclined to test the market.
And then the question becomes whether the Patriots would use the franchise tag, giving Welker $9.4 million or so for one season. That number would grow to $11.28 million in 2013, absent a long-term deal.
Given those realities, it’s hard to envision Welker taking less than $20 million guaranteed, since he’d make more than that in the next two seasons under the franchise tag.
In the end, the best way for the Patriots and Welker to gauge his value will be to see what he can get elsewhere. The biggest risk with that, however, is that he’ll choose to take what he can get elsewhere.