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A closer look at Wes Welker’s decision to sign his franchise tender

05.15.12 at 5:51 pm ET
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Given the relationship between his representation and the team and the recent tone of his comments, it was no surprise to see that wide receiver Wes Welker signed his franchise tender on Tuesday.

One day after telling WEEI’€™s ‘€œMut & Lou’€ that he had ‘€œnine-and-a-half million reasons’€ why he wouldn’€™t miss any regular season games, Welker signed his deal, a one-year, $9.515 million package. The receiver tweeted the news shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, saying: ‘€œI signed my tender today. I love the game and I love my teammates! Hopefully doing the right thing gets the right results. #leapoffaith’€

First, Welker is represented by Athletes First, which has a historically great relationship with the Patriots: they represent several current New England players, including Aaron Hernandez, Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Zoltan Mesko, Ryan Mallett and Brian Waters. That history almost assures the New England management that there will not be any sort of incendiary language (or nuclear options) like we saw when Logan Mankins was slapped with the franchise tag. And while Welker still has yet to sign a long-term extension, the relationship between the two sides should certainly provide a bit of optimism for Patriots fans.

As far as Welker’€™s comments, he told the NFL Network last month he was ‘€œin no rush’€ to sign his tender, and two weeks ago said on ESPNBoston radio that he was leaning toward not taking part in the team’€™s June mini-camp. But on Monday, he sounded like someone who was committed to getting into the offseason program as soon as possible, telling WEEI he’€™d ‘€œlike to be at minicamp’€ and saying there was no ill will between the two sides as talks continued.

‘€œI think we’€™re all on the same page,’€ said Welker, who will now be able to report for OTA’€™s next week and June’€™s minicamp. ‘€œAnd we’€™re all trying to collectively come together and make something happen. I think everybody just needs to know that. We’€™re all on the same page and we’€™re trying to work toward something.’€

One of the difficult things in trying to find a reasonable framework for a long-term deal with Welker is that there’€™s really no one like him. His production over the last five years rivals that of Larry Fitzgerald, but no one is suggesting that he get Fitzgerald type of money. And while Welker is an invaluable part of the New England passing game, no slot receiver over the age of 30 is going to break the bank. He’€™s completely unique — that’s why Andrew Brandt, who has been on both sides of the negotiating table, says that when it comes to a long-term deal, Welker’€™s camp and the Patriots should look at the model provided when the Jets signed Santonio Holmes.

Regardless, the next major date to keep in mind is July 15 — by league rule, the two sides have until that date to work out a contract. After that, Welker must play the coming season under the franchise tag contract.

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