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Report: Patriots, Wes Welker make 'progress' on a new deal

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

The Patriots, like their AFC East rivals the Dolphins, have many different ways that they could go with the franchise tag by 4 p.m. ET on Monday. One guy who looks like an unlikely candidate is wideout Wes Welker, who would command an $11.4 million tag number.

More likely is the Pats and Welker working out a new deal. And, according to Tom Curran of CSN New England, there is "progress" on that front.

Curran also reports that New England "appears to be leaning toward not using" the tag, but the Patriots abstaining from hitting someone with it is "not definite."

The other two candidates whom the Patriots could tag are right tackle Sebastian Vollmer or cornerback Aqib Talib.

Vollmer seems like the top candidate -- he's our No. 8 ranked free agent on our master list and a key component for protecting Tom Brady. Additionally, he could play left or right tackle for another team. The issue is that the side of the line that Vollmer plays on is irrelevant for the franchise tag; he gets $9.8 million from the Patriots either way.

Talib's candidacy takes a hit because he'd be owed $10.85 million on a one-year deal. That's a lot of cash for a guy who has the off-field issues that Talib does, and it wouldn't be a logical way for the Patriots to try to sign him if they want to limit their exposure in terms of guaranteed money. (They'd be starting from there.)

And, of course, with Welker a second tag would mean a baseline negotiating point of more than $20 million guaranteed were he to be tagged again.

Welker seems like a logical fit to stay, though. Given that Brady freed up some cap space, it would be surprising if the Patriots weren't willing to hand over whatever (relatively small amount of) cash that Brady's most trusted target wants in order to stay in New England.

Which is why the news that the two sides are making progress makes perfect sense.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed watch Pro Football 360 daily at 3 p.m. ET and NFL newsletter. You can follow Will Brinson on Twitter here: @willbrinson.

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