The Patriots have used the franchise tag on WR Wes Welker, keeping the league's leading receiver on the roster for at least one more season. The news was first reported Monday by Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe.
Welker led the NFL a year ago with 122 receptions; it was the third time in five seasons with the Patriots he had led the league in that statistic. The team's slot receiver, Welker also had 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns for the AFC champions.
A former undrafted free agent, Welker has found great success in New England, playing with Tom Brady. He has made the Pro Bowl four times and twice was named a first-team All Pro.
Welker is the second receiver to be given the franchise tag this offseason, joining DeSean Jackson of the Eagles. Both will earn around $9.4 million if they sign the tender.
The Patriots released the following statement after announcing the tag:
"Wes Welker is a remarkable football player for our team and has been a vital component to our offense and special teams since we traded for him in 2007. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal. Wes remains a contractual priority and we are hopeful that he will remain a Patriot for years to come."
The way we see it
This comes as no surprise. The Patriots were not going to let Welker, their top receiver at a position of need, hit the open market. The goal remains to sign Welker to a long-term deal. The last two seasons, the Patriots have been able to sign franchised players to long-term contracts — Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins. Welker's value is likely highest in New England than anywhere else, giving the Patriots a little more leverage going forward, in addition to the tag.