BOSTON (CBS) — Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline for NFL teams to place the franchise tag on players came and went without the Patriots using the designation on any player.

Shortly after 4 p.m., several reporters indicated that no franchise tag was coming and that the team had elected not to use it this season.

There had been much speculation whether the team would use the franchise tag to guarantee the ability to retain either Wes Welker, Aqib Talib or Sebastian Vollmer. The three will now become free agents if the team can’t sign them to contracts before March 12, when free agency begins.

Welker, who will turn 32 in May, was tagged last year. If he were to be tagged again this year, he would have received a pay raise from $9.5 million to $11.4 million, because a player makes 120 percent of the previous season’s salary if he is franchised in consecutive seasons.

The price would have been nearly $11 million for franchising Talib and nearly $10 million for franchising Vollmer.

It’s the first time the Patriots have not used their franchise tag since 2008. In 2009, the team placed the tag on Matt Cassel in order to retain his rights before trading him to Kansas City. The following year, the Patriots placed the franchise tag on Vince Wilfork in order to get more time to negotiate a long-term contract, which the two sides eventually agreed upon. In 2011, after a season in which Logan Mankins sat out until Novemeber due to a contract dispute, the Patriots placed the tag on the left guard. He and the Patriots were able to agree on a long-term deal before the start of the 2011 season.


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