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Patriots WR Welker signs franchise tender

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By Kevin Fishbain

Patriots WR Wes Welker signed his franchise tender on Tuesday. The tender is worth $9.5 million for the 2012 season.

The two sides had reportedly been far apart on coming to terms on a long-term deal. On WEEI sports radio in Boston on Monday, Welker said he wouldn’t miss any games.

“There are 9.5 million reasons why I wouldn’t miss any regular-season games,” he said.

The Patriots’ mandatory minicamp is June 12-14 and their OTAs begin May 21.

"I signed my tender today. I love the game and I love my teammates!" Welker tweeted. "Hopefully doing the right thing gets the right results."

Welker led the NFL with 122 catches last season. He had a career-high 1,569 receiving yards and nine touchdown catches. The two sides can still try to work out a long-term deal.

The way we see it

In the game of leverage, the Patriots had most of it. They signed veteran WRs Donté Stallworth, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Anthony Gonzalez in the offseason, then drafted seventh-round WR Jeremy Ebert, loading up on insurance at the position. Welker has been tremendously successful in the Patriots’ offense, and there is a popular line of thinking that Welker wouldn’t be as productive in another offense.

The Patriots are generally not ones to overpay their players, but they have rewarded Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins and Jerod Mayo with long-term deals in the past two years. Mankins’ came following a season in which he sat out the first eight games, though. The Patriots would prefer to lock down Welker for the rest of his career, but they clearly were in no rush to do so at his price, which may have gone up considering the contracts some receivers got in free agency.

For the time being, the importance here is that Welker signed his tender and can remove a potential distraction for when the Patriots begin OTAs and get into mandatory minicamp. No one expected Welker to be wearing another uniform in 2012, and now that’s for certain, but if the two sides fail to get a long-term deal done, 2013 is another story.

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