Welker and the Pats are reportedly $6 million in guaranteed money apart. (US Presswire)

The clock is ticking for the Patriots and wideout Wes Welker on his contract status: the two sides have until 4 p.m. ET on July 16 to work out a long-term extension. And it appears that, with just over a week to go, the two sides are around $6 million apart.

That's according to Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe, who writes Sunday that the Pats "want Welker to take a bit of a discount" to stick around New England, while Welker wants just under the $21 million guaranteed he'd make if he was franchised in 2012 and 2013. According to Bedard, that leaves a gap "in the range of around $6 million in guaranteed money."

Bedard also believes the team is currently debating what kind of season Welker will produce in 2012, since that will determine whether or not he's willing to take a "team-friendly deal."

If Welker produces a season along the likes of his average year since joining the Pats -- 111 receptions, 1,221 receiving yards and six touchdowns -- don't bank on him being willing to give the Patriots any sort of discount on a deal. New England could either sign a 32-year-old Welker to a longer deal, let him walk in free agency or give him a second franchise tag, which would cost them $11.418 million.

The longer deal a year from now makes little sense, letting Welker walk is a major risk and back-to-back tags would be financially irresponsible, since the Pats could minimize Welker's cap number over the next two years with a deal now. That would mean, as Bedard notes, that the team could use the room to extend other players like Aaron Hernandez, Sebastian Vollmer or Patrick Chung.

For the most part, Welker's played the role of good soldier this offseason. He quickly signed his franchise tender, and though he pointed out that negotiations had "actually gotten worse," Welker quickly backtracked on those comments. Welker even said he was excited for Rob Gronkowski when the tight end inked a new multi-year contract.

And, of course, Pats owner Robert Kraft said he'd like to see Welker as "a Patriot for life." But in the same breath he noted that he has to put his "team first" -- you can expect the Pats to handle this in the most business-like manner.

And $6 million is a lot of money, especially when it's guaranteed. So it's not a sure thing that a deal gets done in the next week. But if New England is willing to make up some of the ground on the distance between the two sides and get closer to Welker's $21-million-ish target, it's entirely possible the two sides could strike some sort of deal before July 16. Nothing is better for negotiations than a deadline.

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