According to Ron Borges of the Boston Herald, the Patriots are not planning on placing the franchise tag on Welker. That means the star wideout will be a free agent as of March 12, where he will be free to sign with the team of his choosing.
The Patriots are simply not going to put an $11.4 million franchise tag on Welker, someone with intimate knowledge of the team’s thinking said. Nor is he going to get an offer better than the one he turned down in 2011.
This is not much of a shock when you consider the price tag of $11.4 million. The Patriots have a lot of money tied up in Tom Brady, Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork already this coming season (a combined $42.4 million, over one-third of the team's cap space). Add Welker's tag on top of that and the Patriots would be severely limited in how they could spend their money this offseason.
Even if the Patriots were to restructure a couple of contracts to make more space, there are plenty of reasons to believe Welker's not worth that kind of money in the first place.
If Welker is gone, the Patriots have a pretty clear path to moving forward with the offense. Aaron Hernandez already does a lot of the same things as Welker and could easily man the slot in three-wide sets.
Not re-signing Welker also opens the door for Julian Edelman to return. The Patriots most likely wouldn't want to move on from both in one offseason, especially since Edelman was being groomed to fill a larger role in the early goings of the season before injuries struck the Patriots skill positions.
That being said, the Patriots will most likely need to find some help at wide receiver either through free agency or the draft and could look to evolve the offense to get a bit more explosive on the outsides.
Here's some more news and analysis from around the AFC East.
New England Patriots
Nick Underhill of MassLive.com explains why the Patriots would be wise to move on from Welker.
James Christensen of NEPatriotsDraft.com explains why Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson could be a nice fit with the Patriots.
According to Kimberley A. Martin of Newsday, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis is upset about the trade rumors and says the decision as to whether Revis remains a Jet all starts with owner Woody Johnson.
According to Conor Orr of the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger, the Jets showed some interest in CFL running back Chad Kackert.
Howard Simon of WGR 550 SportsRadio takes a look at how the Bills could most wisely spend their cap space.
Tim Graham of The Buffalo News examines why signing Tarvaris Jackson makes sense.
Ben Volin of The Palm Beach Post lists the teams that could be in contention with the Dolphins over the top free agent wide receivers.
Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald explores where the Dolphins would be wises to put their franchise tag.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.