A source with intimate knowledge of the team's thinking told Ron Borges of the Boston Herald that the Patriots "are simply not going to put an $11.4 million franchise tag" on the 31-year-old wide receiver.
Borges argues Welker has worked himself into a corner, and he's right. With little leverage in the situation, Welker isn't about to receive a better offer than the fully guaranteed two-year, $16 million deal he turned down in 2011. By signing his franchise tender last May, Welker veered off a path that helped previous players get paid.
Players who carried contract demands to the brink in New England -- Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel, Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins, for example -- were among those awarded open-market value by the team. Welker squelched that opportunity by agreeing to his one-year, $9.515 million tender last spring. Contract talks went south soon after.
Unless he bends, Welker is no guarantee to return in 2013. With Brandon Lloyd due a $3 million option bonus on top of a $1.9 million base salary, it's conceivable Tom Brady could be throwing to a cast of new faces next season.
Welker has been invaluable in New England, and it's strange to imagine this offense without him, but let's not forget who these Patriots are -- unsentimental. They're willing to shed players before anyone sees it coming. Unwilling to mortgage the future based on what has come before.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.