"We've mentioned Wes Welker's
name several times over the past few weeks. Once as our pick for <a href="">the
top available free-agent wide receiver</a> and previously as a player on whom <a href="">the
franchise tag would probably be used</a>.

And that appears to be the
case: according to a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Patriots "are likely" to
utilize the franchise tag and place it on Welker before the March 5 deadline, in
order to prevent Welker from hitting the open market. If Welker signed his
tender, he would receive a guaranteed, one-year salary of $9.5

There was some belief that the Patriots wouldn't commit that
much cash in guaranteed money to Welker and would let him test the market and
then attempt to re-sign him at a lower rate than what Welker reportedly wants
(it's believed he wants to be paid somewhere in the range of $14 to $15 million
per year).

<a href="" rel="nofollow">Ian
Rapoport of the Boston Herald reported</a> on Saturday that the logic
behind the Patriots change of heart is that the market for Welker in free agency
would be "incredibly active."

The last time New England used the
franchise tag, things did not go smoothly. Logan Mankins,
one of the defendants in the Lockout Lawsuit, held out for seven games after the
labor crisis was resolved.

And there's a chance that a similar stand-off
could occur with Welker if the two sides don't reach a long-term deal. Welker's
critical to the Patriots offense -- he has 554 receptions and 6,105 receiving
yards since 2007 -- but he would also like to be paid like one of the top
wideouts in the game and given his age and previous injury history, the security
of one more big contract."