In game of tag, Welker still not 'it'

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In game of tag, Welker still not 'it'

The Patriots have until Monday at 4 p.m. to apply the franchise tag to Wes Welker, whichwould keep the wideout offthe free-agent market.Thatthe deadline draws closer and all isquiet could be a good sign. Silence often precedes progress. The Patriots and Welker's agent, David Dunn, havetried since last fallto get Welker a deal that works for both sides, but it's not clear how busy they've been in recent days. Dunn hasn't responded to calls to any of his phones, nor to e-mails, texts or carrier pigeon. The Patriots? Ummm, no. Welker, who turns 31 in May, signed a five-year, 18 million deal with the team in 2007. Since he's been here, he's made 554 catches for 6,105 yards and 31 touchdowns. He had one receiving touchdown before he came to New England. He's been to four Pro Bowls, battled back from a blown ACL in mere months and has been a worthy successor to Troy Brown as the Patriot most who most fully embodies what the franchise has been about since Bill Belichick arrived. In August, Larry Fitzgerald, 28,of the Cardinals signed an eight-year, 128.5 million contract with 50 million guaranteed. The age difference and the role difference between Welker and Fitzgerald is certainly worth noting - Welker's a slot receiver; Fitzgerald is an outside receiver and home-run threat - but the production similarities are worth noting as well. No receiver has been more productive than Welker over the past five years and the Patriots have gotten him at a very low cost relative to that production. It's Dunn's job to make sure Welker gets paid near the top of the receiver food chain and he's well within his rights to expect the Patriots to shell out a little more on top of that for services already rendered. The Patriots love Welker the player and the person. They want him around long-term, but it's unfathomable to think he'll be getting a deal which has a total value that even approaches Fitzgerald's 50 million guaranteed. With the franchise tag set at 9.4 million this year, a four-year, 32 million deal with 18-20 million guaranteed seems fair for Welker. He'd be making 8 million a year and would have a good chance of realizing all the money in the deal. In the end, he will have made 50 million over nine seasons if you roll in the first contract with the Patriots. The first players to get tagged this offseason came Thursday -DeSean Jackson of the Eagles and Raider Tyvon Branch. We're expecting a few more on Friday and the trickle of tagged players to continue until the deadline. We'll see if Welker is in the trickle.

Bennett on Goodell: 'Where is he? He's like Waldo right now'

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Bennett on Goodell: 'Where is he? He's like Waldo right now'

FOXBORO -- Leave it to Martellus Bennett, the children's book author, to make a cartoon reference when asked about the lingering effects of Deflategate. 

Could hear the "Where's Roger?" chants that rang throughout Gillette Stadium on Sunday night, a reporter wondered? Bennett deflected at first. 

"Who's Roger," he asked? 

Then it was pointed out to him that the chants were directed to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who opted to attend the NFC title game in Atlanta -- his second trip to the Georgia Dome in as many weeks -- instead of the AFC title game between the Patriots and Steelers. 

"Oh yeah," Bennett said, his memory apparently jogged. "Where is he? He's like Waldo right now. He didn't want to come here."

Tom Brady was asked about the chants as well. He had to have heard them, a reporter noted. 

"I didn't hear that chant," Brady insisted. "I did hear them singing to Bon Jovi, though, that was pretty cool."

Awaiting the Patriots in Houston will be the Atlanta Falcons, obviously, but one side plot will be the potential for a face-to-face for Goodell and the Patriots.

In the past, Goodell has handed the Lombardi Trophy to the Super Bowl winner following the game -- a tradition one would expect would continue this year regardless of who wins. The commissioner has also awarded the game's MVP award to the honoree on the morning after the game. Following the Super Bowl two seasons ago, Brady and Goodell shared a stage as Brady accepted the MVP hardware.