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Report: Patriots won't use franchise tag on Wes Welker

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

The Patriots face some interesting decisions this offseason with a number of players whom they could consider using the franchise tag on. Wes Welker is one of those players, but he reportedly won't be tagged.

Ron Borges of the Boston Herald reports the Pats "are simply not going to put an $11.4 million franchise tag on Welker" according to "someone with intimate knowledge of the team's thinking."

It's a logical move. Welker was tagged last offseason, and the team would have to pay him above and beyond the typical cost for tagging a wideout. Two years of Welker under the tag would total more than $20 million, which means he'd have essentially hosed them in negotiations based on what the Pats were reportedly offering him last season.

Besides, New England has other issues to address. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is scheduled to become a free agent and might be the best answer if Bill Belichick even decides to use the franchise tag at all this offseason.

Last year's business with Welker and his tag looked like it had the makings of a nightmare. Welker signed his tag quickly after receiving the designation from New England (ostensibly because he wanted to lock down the guaranteed cash), then ripped the Patriots for negotiations that had "gotten worse," then backtracked on those comments and finally found himself too far apart from what the Patriots were offering to make a deal happen before 2012.

If Welker wanted to ultimately land a big deal from New England, he probably should've held out before 2012. Though Welker's decision to show up and play seems like something that fits perfectly into the "Patriot Way," it probably cost him several million dollars in guaranteed money from New England over the course of a several-season span.

Here's the good news: He's about to hit the market. And he'll be a fascinating test study to watch as well. He has negatives (age, concerns about playing outside New England's system, not being a "true No. 1 wideout," drops, to name a few), but the positives are there, too. Welker runs precise routes, piles up catches and has produced at a level that few players have over the past few years.

He's a catch machine. And if he's undervalued on the market, there are plenty of places where he could land and keep piling up the production for which he ultimately never got paid in New England.

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