We’ve heard the report from Ron Borges of the Boston Herald, now we will hear it again from Adam Schefter. The New England Patriots are not expected to franchise Wes Welker, and he was listed among several other high-profile impending free agents in a tweet from ESPN’s NFL Insider.
The other players noted in the tweet from Schefter are obvious inclusions in Dashon Goldson of the San Francisco 49ers, Dustin Keller of the New York Jets, Shane Lechler, and the Miami Dolphins Jake Long. None of those guys are worth the franchise tag, and there are various reasons why. The 49ers are not expected to use the tag this offseason, the Dolphins are much more likely to tag Randy Starks (even CB Sean Smith is a more plausible option than the declining LT), the Jets don’t have enough cap space to use the tag, and below I will get into the Patriots reasons.
Wes Welker is definitely a big priority for the Pats this offseason, especially since it sounds like Brandon Lloyd‘s future is far from a guarantee with reports even stating that he isn’t even in the team’s future plans. The Pats are likely entertaining the thought of adding a true No. 1 wide receiver who can stretch the field and make plays, rather than another possession guy (like Lloyd).
Now Lloyd’s uncertainty helped Welker’s value, but the big reasons why the Patriots won’t be tagging him are financial. The Pats simply aren’t going to tag Welker for a second straight season, because that would mean more than $11 million for this season.
But the main reason why Welker won’t be tagged has to do with the progress the Patriots have made in long-term contract discussions with the league’s premier slot receiver. Tom Brady‘s restructured contract opened the door for negotiations between Welker and the team that would bear more fruit, because Brady’s deal clears up $15 million in cap room over the next two seasons. Multiple reports have surfaced over the past week that Welker and the Patriots are making significant progress towards getting a deal done (for a rumored three years), and thus it would be almost crazy to tag him.
I highly doubt anybody will be getting the franchise tag this year from the New England Patriots, but Greg Bedard did write recently that we should not overlook the chances of Sebastian Vollmer receiving the transition tag.
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