Patriots expected to tag Wes Welker

The New England Patriots are expected to put the franchise tag on leading receiver Wes Welker, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

This move will be a smart one for New England. It allows the Patriots more flexibility to work out a long-term contract before the start of the 2012 season. Welker was due to become an unrestricted free agent next month. The one-year tag is worth $9.5 million.

Welker will be a Patriot next season. New England is too smart to let its best receiver walk. With the tag, the worst-case scenario is Welker, 30, can't come to terms on a long-term contract by this upcoming season and will become a free agent again in 2013.