Wes Welker countdown a week away

It's not something Wes Welker and the New England Patriots are making a public display about. But the clock is down to one week for Welker and the reigning AFC champs to try to reach a long-term extension.

New England has until July 16 to extend Welker or have him play on a one-year franchise tag for $9.5 million. If a new contract cannot be reached, the chances increase of Welker walking in free agency in 2013. Welker, 31, will be a year older and New England most likely won't franchise Welker two consecutive years due to the price increase.

The Patriots have the cap room. But New England also has to consider investing long-term dollars into a player over 30. The Patriots already have quarterback Tom Brady and Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski locked up in long-term contracts. They also have to consider keeping dynamic tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has two years left on his rookie contract and probably will be looking for a raise next year.

I've said all along it could come down to New England keeping Welker or Hernandez beyond 2013. A case can be made for the Patriots extending each player. New England has yet to make that call, but we should know more in the next seven days.