BOSTON (CBS) – For the first time in four years, the Patriots may not be playing tag.

Monday is the deadline for NFL teams to apply the franchise tag to players, and when 4 p.m. deadline rolls around, there is a good chance no one on the Patriots roster will have that tag next to their name.

Though receiver Wes Welker, corner Aqib Talib and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer are all candidates to receive the tag from New England, their high cost may deter the Patriots’ brass from giving it to them. Welker would be due to earn $11.4 million if hit with the franchise tag, an increase from last year’s $9.5 million he received for from being tagged. Talib would make $10.8 million and Sebastian Vollmer $9.8 million — all pricey options for a one-year deal that could deter the Patriots from reaching deals with other free agents.

The Patriots were able to clear quite a bit of cap space by re-working quarterback Tom Brady’s deal, giving them roughly $25 million to work with this off-season, and they likely don’t want to surrender all of their new-found freedom thanks to the franchise tag.

However, the Patriots could franchise any of those three players to give them more time to reach a long-term deal. The team is reportedly interested in bringing each of them back and if they are franchised, a long-term deal may not be far behind. Such was the case when the Patriots franchised guard Logan Mankins in 2011 and nose tackle Vince Wilfork in 2010.

So it’s unclear what the Patriots will do on deadline day, but it’s looking more likely no one will be hit with the franchise tag come 4 p.m..


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