The New England Patriots opted not to use the franchise tag on yesterday’s deadline, and I breathed a sigh of relief at their decision. Wes Welker, Aqib Talib, and Sebastian Vollmer are a key trio of free agents that the Patriots would like to re-sign, but franchising any of them wouldn’t make too much sense. It would have been feasible for the Patriots to slap the franchise (or more likely, the transition) tag on Vollmer, but it wouldn’t have made any sense to tag the other two.
The going rate for cornerbacks under the franchise tag is $10.6 million, and an inconsistent corner like Aqib Talib isn’t worth that kind of money. That sort of money should only be paid out to elite corners, and Talib isn’t an elite corner- he has potential but hasn’t shown that he can come close to that level of play yet. Talib is a priority for the Patriots to re-sign, especially since cornerback would be a big need for them.
I view Talib as the third-best impending free agent corner out there, and he’s pretty close to my No. 2 guy (Chris Houston). The main reason why I prefer Houston is because the Detroit Lions CB will most likely come at a reduced price tag in comparison to what will likely be a bloated asking price from Aqib Talib.
Franchising Wes Welker would have been borderline crazy, and it seemed from the get-go that the Patriots were never going to tag Welker. The source from Ron Borges in his column a few weeks ago about Wes Welker was the first hint at that, and then repeated analysis pieces from other writers, common sense, and reports yesterday from guys like Adam Schefter only ingrained that.
Welker and the Patriots are making significant progress, and Greg Bedard recently wrote that Welker is the most likely Patriots free agent to re-sign before the 12th of March. Even though there are reports stating things could be difficult, I don’t buy it and think Welker and the Pats will agree to a long-term deal shortly. It would have made no sense to use the tag when progressing is being made, especially since tagging Welker would cost over $11 million.
Sebastian Vollmer is viewed by many writers as the New England Patriots priority this offseason, even though Bedard also wrote that the Patriots are high (higher than most) on young right tackle Marcus Cannon‘s ability to start. He did show potential by shutting down the New York Jets on Thanksgiving, but he had it easy in that one. From what I have been reading from Bedard and other Patriots beat guys, it sounds like Vollmer wants to test his value on the free agent market. Unless if a team decides to overpay him and give him elite left tackle money, then Vollmer is staying in New England- that’s the way it should be.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.