Welker expected to be tagged tomorrow

Given that the two sides aren’t close on a long-term contract for Wes Welker, and barring a last-minute change of heart by the team, Welker will have the franchise tag placed on him by Monday afternoon’s deadline, a league source said tonight.

The franchise number for receivers is expected to be around $9.4 million this year, though the exact amount has not yet been released by the NFL.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the formula for figuring non-exclusive franchise tag (which does allow a player to negotiate with other teams) amounts is more complicated, and is tied to the 2012 salary cap, which has not yet been set.

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In past years, and as it remains with the current exclusive tag (which does not allow players to negotiate with other teams), franchise amount was equal to the average of the top five highest-paid players at a position. However, now the exclusive tag is figured for the coming year’s top five instead of the previous year’s (ie, 2012 exclusive tags will be based on 2012 salaries, not 2011).

The Patriots offered Welker a two-year, fully-guaranteed contract for $16 million during the 2011 season, which was declined.

If Welker were to be franchised in the 2012 and ’13 seasons, he would earn closer to $20 million, and all of that would also be guaranteed.

Teams have until 3:59 p.m. tomorrow to designate a franchise player (though they are not required to do so), and 11 teams have already done so.

Edited to fix salary-cap calculation wording.

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