FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots announced that they are utilizing the franchise designation on wide receiver Wes Welker. In the last two years, the Patriots used the franchise designation to retain the rights to Vince Wilfork (2010) and Logan Mankins (2011). The designations were later removed when the two sides agreed to contract extensions.
Today, the Patriots confirmed the use of the franchise designation and issued the following statement: "Wes Welker is a remarkable football player for our team and has been a vital component to our offense and special teams since we traded for him in 2007. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal. Wes remains a contractual priority and we are hopeful that he will remain a Patriot for years to come."
Welker, who has earned four straight Pro Bowl honors, leads the NFL with 554 receptions and 7.2 receptions per game since joining the Patriots prior to the 2007 season in a trade with Miami. He led the NFL with 122 receptions and finished second in the NFL in receiving yards with a franchise-record 1,569 yards in 2011. The 120-plus catch season was the second time in Welker's career he has passed the 120-reception mark (123 in 2009 and 122 in 2011), joining Cris Carter (122 in 1995 and 122 in 1994) as the only players to have 120-plus receptions twice in a career.
Welker owns the top four single-season reception totals in New England history, with a team record 123 in 2009, 122 in 2011, 112 in 2007 and 111 in 2008. Welker joins Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice as the only players in NFL history with four 100-catch seasons.
Welker originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with San Diego in 2004 out of Texas Tech. He made the San Diego 53-man roster out of training camp, but was released after the first game and was later signed by the Miami Dolphins, where he played for three seasons. He was traded to New England on March 5, 2007 in exchange for a second- and seventh-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft. Welker has started in 69 of 124 games and has registered 650 receptions for 7,226 yards and 32 touchdown receptions over his eight-year career.