Colleague Greg A. Bedard, citing a league source, reports that receiver Wes Welker has signed his franchise tender.
UPDATE: Welker announced on his Twitter feed that he did sign, writing: “I signed my tender today. I love the game and I love my teammates! Hopefully doing the right thing gets the right results. #leapoffaith”
For the moment, Welker will receive a one-year, fully guaranteed $9.515 million for the 2012 season, though he and the team could still negotiate a different, longer-term deal.
Signing the deal represents quite a change for Welker, who last month on NFL Network said he was “in no rush” to sign his tender, and two weeks ago said on ESPNBoston radio that he was leaning toward not taking part in the team’s June mini-camp.
Now, he can take part in OTAs, which begin next Monday, as well as the mini-camp.
But Welker showed that he had softened from his harder stance during a WEEI interview yesterday, saying he had “$9.5 million reasons” not to miss any regular-season games. By signing now, not will he not miss a regular-season game, Welker won’t even miss any shorts-and-t-shirts throwing camps.
By league rule, the two sides have until July 15 to work out a contract; after that, Welker must play the coming season under the franchise tag contract.
Signing now is definitely a leap of faith for Welker, who is on the record as saying that he thinks he deserves a long-term deal. On the Patriots’ part, the incentive to try to get something done is pretty much gone now that Welker decided not to withhold his services, which was really the only leverage he had. The team has the space under the salary cap to carry the full $9.515 million, and can franchise him again next year, though at a cost of over $10 million. However, Welker did come back from his ACL surgery in early 2010 very quickly, has been underpaid for several seasons, and is a trusted target for Tom Brady, which could help him get what he wants.