Welker Gets Patriots’ Franchise Tag as Bills Sign Steve Johnson

The New England Patriots made wide receiver Wes Welker their franchise player, and Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson and Houston Texans running back Arian Foster avoided the tag with long-term contract extensions.

Unable to agree on an extension with Welker prior to today’s National Football League deadline for using the franchise tag, the Patriots applied the designation that protects their rights to the receiver for one season, according to a team news release.

The one-year salaries of franchised players are based on a formula that takes into account the pay for other top players at that position. Welker will make about $9.4 million, the salary slotted for receivers, according to NFL.com. The designation can be removed if the two sides agree on a long-term contract.

Welker had an NFL-best 122 catches last season, setting a team record with 1,569 yards receiving. He’s been to four straight Pro Bowls and his 554 catches since joining New England in 2007 are the most in the NFL.

Johnson, the first Bills receiver to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, signed a multiyear contract extension, the team said on its website. It’s a five-year deal worth $36 million, according to the Associated Press. Johnson caught 76 passes for 1,004 yards and seven scores last season.

Foster, the NFL’s 2010 rushing leader, agreed on a five-year contract extension with the Texans, according to his agent. The accord is worth $43.5 million, with almost $21 million guaranteed, AP said. The 25-year-old Foster rushed for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games last season, helping the team to its first playoff victory, 31-10 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Tennessee Titans safety Michael Griffin, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer, Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee, Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril and Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater all were designated franchise players by their teams.

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