Barring a last-minute deal, the New England Patriots are expected to use their franchise tag on wide receiver Wes Welker. The Patriots—including both owner Robert Kraft and quarterback Tom Brady—have said that they want Welker to stay in New England, and Welker has said the same.
It's not 100 percent clear why no deal has been reached, although part of it is obvious: After Welker's knee injury in 2009, he had what was, by his standards, a down year, with 86 catches for 848 yards, seven touchdowns and a Pro Bowl selection.
While that looks like a relatively good season, consider this: In his four other seasons as a Patriot, Welker averaged 117 receptions for 1,314 yards and six touchdowns, and twice he's been a first-team All-Pro receiver.
In any case, Welker decided—quite correctly—that taking a "lowball" offer based on his most recent production would not be a good idea, and in 2011, he had the best year of his career, setting new highs in yards and touchdowns and tying an NFL record with a 99-yard touchdown.
Last season sets the stage for what Patriots fans can only hope will be short and productive negotiations over a new contract.
Let's look at the issues involved in the negotiations.