There are less than two hours for the Patriots to officially place the franchise tag on Wes Welker for the 2012 season. If you're holding out hope that the two sides are hammering out a last-minute long-term deal, it's safe to say you should stop hoping; the two sides are far apart and New England will tag Welker.
It will be the fourth straight year that New England has used its franchise tag, and the eighth time overall, though not always with the same result in mind:
2011 - Logan Mankins. Despite the labor uncertainty in the NFL, teams tagged players before the lockout. Mankins and the Patriots did work out a six-year contract during training camp last summer.
2010 - Vince Wilfork. The Pats tagged Wilfork solely to prevent Wilfork from hitting free agency, and less than two weeks after he was tagged, he signed a five-year deal.
2009 - Matt Cassel. Though Casel's one season as the New England starter came at the expense of Tom Brady's health, it couldn't have come at a better time. He was solid, and the Patriots franchised him with the intent of trading him, sending Cassel (and Mike Vrabel) to Kansas City in exchange for a second-round draft pick.
2007 - Asante Samuel. An interesting case. Samuel and the Pats couldn't come to a contract agreement, so toward the end of the '07 preseason he agreed to sign the franchise tag and return to the team if it promised not to franchise him again. New England agreed (Samuel had to either play in 60 percent of the defensive snaps or the team had to win 12 games), Samuel hit free agency in early '08 and cashed in with Philadelphia.
2005 - Adam Vinatieri. This was the second time the Pats tagged their kicker, and it would be the last season Vinatieri played in New England. He signed a free-agent deal with Indianapolis in early '06.
2003 - Tebucky Jones. New England's first tag-and-trade. The Patriots sent Jones to New Orleans in exchange for third- and seventh-round draft picks in '03 and a fourth-rounder in '04.
2002 - Vinatieri. The first Patriots player to receive the franchise tag, New England and its kicker were able to come to a three-year contract extension shortly after the tag was applied.
As for Welker's future with the Patriots, that's yet to be determined. Both he and team owner Robert Kraft have expressed a willingness to keep the receiver in a Patriots' uniform, and Brady certainly would like to have Welker stay around.