Welker signed his franchise tender Tuesday, which fully guaranteed his $9.5 million salary for the 2012 season, and it means he'll be able to report for offseason workouts at Gillette Stadium, if he chooses to do so.
That's timely because the Patriots start their organized team activities Monday. Since the OTAs are full-fledged practices, they're viewed as an important portion of the offseason program, and the players are looking forward to them after five weeks of conditioning and restrictive practices.
Those same teammates should thank Welker, too, because he just put them ahead of his own business. The value of Welker's leverage over the Patriots can be debated, but he definitely sacrificed some of it by signing his tender.
Welker wants a long-term contract, and he deserves one after leading the team in receptions for five consecutive seasons. But the front office has almost all of the power over Welker now that he's signed his tender.
Welker and the Patriots have until July 16 to work out a long-term deal (it says July 15 in the collective bargaining agreement, but July 15 falls on a Sunday this year), and the two sides have each expressed a desire to reach such a resolution. The next two months will unveil how much motivation each respective party has in coming to an agreement.
Welker could have drawn out this ordeal, and few would have blamed him. When it's all said and done, maybe Tuesday's sign of good faith will work in his favor. But there's a realistic chance that it will cost him some money.
That's the mark of a guy who loves the team and the game more than the paycheck. Welker should be forever revered for that.