Albert Breer and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network write about a potential long-term extension being reached before Welker hits the market. The piece does not cite any sources indicating a deal will get done but rather speculates that one being completed before the start of free agency "can't be ruled out."
Of course, it's not yet March so ruling out an extension at this point would be quite foolish. It would certainly appear the Boston Herald's report last week about the Patriots not wishing to use the franchise tag, which would cost upward of $11.6 million, on Welker for a second straight year is accurate since the piece suggests as much. But other than that, there's not much else to go on.
So, we know they don't want to use the franchise tag and people talking to Breer and Rapoport have told us not to rule out a deal before March 12.
Let the speculation begin.