The Patriots headed into this offseason with a lot of questions, but it appears they’ve at least temporarily answered one of them after placing the franchise tag on veteran receiver Wes Welker Monday afternoon.


The Pats have placed the franchise tag on wide receiver Wes Welker. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

The team issued a release a little while ago announcing the move, which ensures that Welker will be a Patriot for at least next season. It also guarantees him at least $9.4 million for the 2012 season.  One would have to believe that they’ll figure out a way to give him a long-term deal, and if history is any indication fans have reason to be hopeful.

In each of the last two seasons, New England has used the tag to buy more time in contract talks with two important players, and both had happy endings.  Vince Wilfork (2010) and Logan Mankins (2011) were tagged by the Patriots, but the good news was that despite the fact both players initially had issues with the designations, the Patriots eventually worked out extensions with each player.

The release pointed out that “the goal” remains to lock Welker up with a new deal.

“Wes Welker is a remarkable football player for our team and has been a vital component to our offense and special teams since we traded for him in 2007. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal. Wes remains a contractual priority and we are hopeful that he will remain a Patriot for years to come.”

One interesting note is the fact that it doesn’t appear that the Patriots want Welker talking to other teams, much like they didn’t with Mankins. With Wilfork he was tendered with a non-exclusive designation, which meant that other teams could have hosted Wilfork on a free-agent visit and potentially sign him to an offer sheet. Had Wilfork received an offer and the Patriots not to matched it, they would have received two first-round draft choices.

According to ESPNBoston.com Welker has spoken to head coach Bill Belichick about the move but no other details are currently available.