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Wes Welker not guaranteed to return with Patriots's Mike Reiss recently suggested that veteran wide receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd aren't "locks" to be back with the New England Patriots for another season. The Boston Globe's Greg Bedard seconds that notion.

Applying the franchise tag to Welker for a second consecutive season would cost the Patriots $11.4 million, roughly $2 million more than he was paid last season. Owner Robert Kraft has hinted that both sides would reach an "intelligent" long-term agreement as long as Welker's agents don't "mess it up."

With three players already accounting for a whopping 35 percent of the 2013 salary cap, Welker's return is the biggest question this offseason.

The decision on Lloyd should be easier. Due a $3 million option bonus on top of a $1.9 million base salary, Lloyd is a candidate for release after proving to be "not quite the right guy" to threaten defenses down the left sideline as the "X" receiver.

Lloyd and special teamer Matt Slater are the only wide receivers under contract. It makes sense for the Patriots to rebuild the position, targeting a legitimate "X" receiver (Mike Wallace? Greg Jennings?) while leaving the middle of the field to tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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