By DiMarkco Chandler
The New England Patriots may have gone down a road of no return yesterday when they failed to reach a contract extension with their franchise player. Patriots wide receiver, Wes Welker will have to wait until the conclusion of the 2012 season before continuing negotiations with his current team. That means that the league’s leading receiver could technically become a high-profile free agent next year.
The Patriots placed their non-exclusive franchise tag Monday on Welker. A team statement said, “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.”
In the case of Welker, a non-exclusive franchise tag means that Welker “must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position for the previous five years, or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater… Non-exclusive franchise players may negotiate with other NFL teams, but if they sign an offer sheet from another team, the original team has a right to match the terms of that offer, or if it does not match the offer and thus loses the player, [the team] is entitled to receive two first-round draft pick as compensation,” according to Wikipedia.
Patriot and Wes Welker fans should not be too disappointed with today’s news, since the wide receiver earlier tweeted: “Glad that I will be a Patriot in 2012, and hopefully ’13, ’14, ’15, ’16, ’17, ’18 …”
New England and Welker had until 4 p.m. today to reach a new deal. Now under the franchise tender the Patriots will have to pay Welker approximately $9.5 million.
The weei.com blog calculated three possible outcomes following the Patriots 2012 season.
1) “Welker and the Patriots reach an accord on a long term deal.”
2) “Welker becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2013, and New England hit him with the franchise tag once again (expected to be roughly $11 million).
3) The Patriots believe the escalating 2013 franchise tag number makes another game of tag with Welker too cost-prohibitive –particularly with a flat cap expected in 2013 – and they simply decide to let him walk after the upcoming season.”
All this mean that Welker will be motivated to put up big number in the 2012 season to give him a greater edge with the Patriots or any other team interested in his talents. Remember, only one player in NFL history has put up more all-purpose yards in his first three seasons; Gale Sayers. Welker holds the franchise records for most reception in a single game and longest reception. In addition, he is the only receiver in NFL history with at least 110 receptions in any three seasons.
With numbers like these, Patriots would have done good to reach a contract extension sooner than letter. No matter how you look at it, today’s news leaves Welker’s future in doubt. But it’s not just New England fans that should be worried about this development. The Patriots may have sealed their fate and be the ones on the short end of the stick.