As they always do during the offseason, the New England Patriots appear to be taking their time with signing free agents, even when one of the most key players to the team's success in 2011 set to hit the open market.
All-Pro wide receiver Wes Welker could command a high dollar contract this offseason, but has been focused on staying in the spot where his career took off, in New England. Welker put up another fantastic season with the Patriots with 122 receptions for 1,569 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. However, it appears that things aren't going to swell in the opening stages of contract negotiations.
According to Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald, the two sides continue discussing a possible long term contract that would keep the 31-year-old-to-be in New England for many years, but there isn't significant progress being made. More from the Rap Sheet:
The talks do not appear to have gone smoothly. Discussions between his representatives and the Patriots have not yet included a breakthrough, a source said. (via Boston Herald)
Despite the rumored long term extension talks, sources are still adamant that the Patriots will most likely end up applying the franchise tag on Welker, which would only bring the star receiver back for one more season on a high salary base.
If I'm the Patriots, I try and lock Welker up this offseason for two reasons. One, he'll likely give them a little bit of leeway in discussions because of his desire to stay here. However, the biggest reason is because he's only a small fish in a big pound of receivers this offseason. Snag him now while his value is lower than it will be next season, where he could be the only headline making receiver on the open market.