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New England Patriots Links 2/20/12 - NFL's Game of Tag Kicks Off Combine Week

<em>Last dance?  Center Dan Koppen is set for free-agency and keeping his options open</em>.
Last dance? Center Dan Koppen is set for free-agency and keeping his options open.

Ian Rapoport wonders if the Patriots will use the franchise tag on Wes Welker or let him test the open market.

"According to the collective bargaining agreement, today is the first day teams can designate their franchise player. The Patriots could attempt to lock up Welker with a one-year contract worth an estimated $9.6 million. The window closes March 5 at 4 p.m. ...

The talks do not appear to have gone smoothly. Discussions between his representatives and the Patriots have not yet included a breakthrough, a source said. ...

It doesn’t seem likely Welker will join the ranks of Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald (eight years/$120 million) or Texans receiver Andre Johnson (seven years/$73.5 million). A slot receiver who has taken plenty of hits — and will be 31 by next season — will command less.

His value isn’t obvious, and there is a line of thinking that the Patriots may allow him to test the market to find that out himself. That’s a risk, as another team could step in with a huge offer and swipe him.

Ian Rapoport notes free agent Dan Koppen is keeping his options open, but the 32-year old center believes he can thrive in 2012 and beyond.

"Hats off to those guys that have done it," Koppen said yesterday. "But I don’t really look at them and say, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’ I just go by how I’m feeling right now. And I feel great. The leg’s better, the ankle’s better. I feel like I got a few more years left in this body, that’s for sure."

"It’s been a great nine years that I’ve had playing for the Patriots and playing in front of the New England fans," Koppen said. "I’ve accomplished a lot in those nine years and now it’s just a part of the career where things are not as concrete as they have been in years past. We’re open to whatever opportunities come our way."

"Do I want to stay here and play?" Koppen said. "Yeah, absolutely, I’d love to come back here and play. But I’m not shut off to the idea of going other places or seeing the opportunities that may present itself when the free agency period comes. It’s an uneasy time, but it’s an exciting time."

"It’s just one of those periods where we haven’t done this," Koppen said. "We’re just taking it as it comes and just waiting. Leaving our options open and excited for the next chapter."