The Patriots don’t use the franchise tag. What’s next?

The franchise tag deadline ended at 4:00 P.M. ET on 3/4/13, and the New England Patriots reportedly did not use it.

What’s next for them you may ask?

Well their three big name free agents, Wes Welker, Aqib Talib, and Sebastian Vollmer are all looking for some kind of big contract or big money. With cap space being freed up from Brady’s restructured deal, and free agency right around the corner (March 12), the Patriots have some decisions to make.

We all know Wes Welker and what his value is to the Patriots. He is an extremely productive slot receiver who has great on-the-field chemistry with Brady. Last year, Wes and the Patriots couldn’t come to a deal before the tag deadline, and the Patriots ended up tagging him. Wes Welker wanted big money, but the Patriots wanted to pay him more like a slot receiver. Rumors are going around that the Wes and the Pats made progress on their negotiations, and experts are predicting around a $24 million, 3 year deal.

The Aqib Talib situation is completely different. He was a game changer in the Patriots defense, and totally elevated the level of play. With him implemented in the defense, the team gave up less 20+ yardage plays and were able to keep elite wide receivers quiet. With their number 2 cornerback, Alphonzo Dennard, recently being arrested, the Patriots face a dilemma. The Patriots have always hated paying big bucks for cornerbacks (Asante Samuel), though Aqib Talib has proved his worth to the team. Talib most likely wants a long term contract that pays around $10 million a year. The Patriots have cited his lack of work ethic and his frequent injuries as a reason not to sign him. Signing Talib for the right price will definitely benefit Talib, but that will only happpen if both sides can come together with clear goals and make the best decision for the team.

Sebastian Vollmer is an offensive lineman who had an extraordinary season with the Patriots. He is definitely an important piece to protecting Brady, but as always, the money is what’s stopping the Patriots from saying that he’s sure to be back next season. With the recent signing of Giants tackle Will Beatty (38.75 million, 5 years), Vollmer may seek more money in his contract, and that could lead to him wanting to test the open market. Many people, including myself, think that he’ll be back next year, but we’ll have to see what happens within the next few weeks (or possibly months).

-Preston

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