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.
Matt Forte isn't returning to Chicago, and the Patriots are being mentioned as a suitor. A Pats-Forte match wouldn't be surprising.