Welker, Patriots miss franchise deadline

Published On July 16, 2012 | By Courtney Fallon

The window for negotiations has closed on Wes Welker and the New England Patriots, and the team chose not to extend a long-term contract to the wide receiver beyond the franchise tender he signed back in May.

According to sources close to the negotiations, the two sides did speak Monday afternoon, but they never got close enough to an agreement by the 4 p.m. deadline.

Under the terms of the franchise agreement, Welker will play the entire 2012 season on a salary of 9.5-million dollars, which is slightly more than the $2.15 million made in 2011 but far less than mega contracts signed by other NFL wide receivers Calvin Johnson (8 years, $132 million) and Larry Fitzgerald (8 years, $120 million) this offseason.

Part of the issue that separates the two sides is paying for past performance. Welker has been a top receiver in the NFL since joining the team in 2007. Welker has amassed 4,930 yards in his five seasons in Foxboro, leading the league in receptions twice, in 2009 and 2011. But at 31 years old and three years removed from a season ending ACL/MCL injury, how much longer can Welker put up those kind of numbers?

The Patriots are playing hardball, and the negotiations are completely in their court. Anything less than a 1000-yard/100-catch season next year, and Welker’s 2013 salary offer will drop significantly. Welker wants to be here, but if his numbers don’t stack up, New England does not have to sign him long-term. Current weapons on the Patriots receiving core give them options. With the emergence of tight end double-threat Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (and Gronk’s 6-year contract extension) the team has clearly moving into a tight-end heavy scheme for the near and distant future.

It’s scary to think that a wide receiver as talented as Welker could hit the open market next season. For now, Welker will have to accept his pay-to-play scenario if he wants to remain in the Patriots system.

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