Patriots Tab Welker Franchise Player While Texans Re-Sign Foster

New England Patriots' Wes Welker
The New England Patriots designated Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker as their franchise player ahead of yesterday’s National Football League deadline. Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The New England Patriots designated Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker as their franchise player ahead of yesterday’s National Football League deadline, while Houston Texans running back Arian Foster avoided the tag by agreeing to a long-term contract extension.

Welker was one of 21 players to receive the designation, which virtually assures them of remaining with their current teams for at least one more season.

Franchise players must be offered a one-year salary that’s the average of the five highest-paid players at their position. If any team signs another club’s non-exclusive franchise player, it would have to give up two first-round draft picks.

“Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal,” the Patriots said yesterday in a statement. “Wes remains a contractual priority and we are hopeful that he will remain a Patriot for years to come.”

The Patriots used their franchise player designation on nose tackle Vince Wilfork in 2010 and guard Logan Mankins last year before reaching long-term deals with both players.

Welker had an NFL-best 122 catches for New England last season and set 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. The Patriots would have to offer Welker a one-year contract worth about $9.4 million, said.

Foster’s Five-Year Pact

Foster, the NFL’s 2010 rushing leader, avoided the franchise tag by agreeing 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, the Associated Press said. The 25-year-old Foster rushed for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games last season, helping the franchise to its first playoff victory.

Steve Johnson, the first Buffalo Bills receiver to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, also signed a multiyear extension yesterday. Johnson, who caught 76 passes for 1,004 yards and seven scores last season, got a five-year deal worth $36 million, according to the AP.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was the only player to receive the exclusive franchise tag, meaning he’s not able to sign with another club.

Running backs Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears and Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens were among the other franchise players, along with wide receivers Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs and DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Super Bowl-champion New York Giants used their franchise player designation on punter Steve Weatherford.

TEAM              PLAYER                 POSITION
Arizona           Calais Campbell        DE
Atlanta           Brent Grimes           CB
Baltimore         Ray Rice               RB
Chicago           Matt Forte             RB
Cincinnati        Mike Nugent            K
Cleveland         Phil Dawson            K
Dallas            Anthony Spencer        LB
Denver            Matt Prater            K
Detroit           Cliff Avril            DE
Indianapolis      Robert Mathis          DE
Jacksonville      Josh Scobee            K
Kansas City       Dwayne Bowe            WR
New England       Wes Welker             WR
New Orleans       Drew Brees**           QB
NY Giants         Steve Weatherford      P
Oakland           Tyvon Branch           S
Philadelphia      DeSean Jackson         WR
San Francisco     Dashon Goldson         S
Tampa Bay         Connor Barth           K
Tennessee         Michael Griffin        S
Washington        Fred Davis             TE

**exclusive franchise player designation
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