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Posted at 05:35 PM ET, 05/15/2012

Wes Welker signs franchise tender with Patriots, gives up leverage for long-term deal

Wes Welker will remain a Patriot through the 2012 season, but then what? (David Duprey - AP)
New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker signed his franchise tender on Tuesday, ending the threat of a potential training camp holdout.

Welker announced the news, as previously reported by the Boston Globe, on his Twitter feed.

That “leap of faith” could be taken two ways — tongue in cheek for the top receiver on New England’s pass-happy, Tom Brady-led offense or as an admission of legitimate risk for a veteran player with an injury history who just signed a one-year deal.

The franchise tender is worth a guaranteed $9.515 million for 2012, as the Boston Globe reported. And while the Patriots could renegotiate a long-term deal more to Welker’s liking, New England’s incentive of making sure Welker doesn’t hold out is gone.

Last month Welker — who led the NFL with 122 catches in 2011 — appeared willing to hold out for a new contract, telling the NFL Network that he was “in no rush” to sign his franchise tender. But he changed his tune on Monday, saying in a WEEI interview that he had “9.5 million reasons” not to miss time during the regular season.

Catches passes from Brady in New England’s offense has proven to be the ideal system to maximize Welker’s speed and route-running ability, and the 31-year-old receiver knows it. But even with talented tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots know they need Welker, too, which leaves one wondering whether a brief holdout could have helped the two sides reach a long-term contract.

Was this a shrewd move for one of the league’s best possession receivers? Or did Welker just cost himself a long-term deal by caving too soon?

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