Patriots owner Robert Kraft would like to keep employing Wes Welker. There seems to be little question that the feeling is reciprocated by the slot receiver.

Sentiment, however, doesn't pay the bills, and that's where things get complicated.

Kraft noted again yesterday that both sides need to come together to arrange a deal. Of course, the Patriots could use the power move of hitting Welker with the franchise tag again, but the chances of that happening are highly unlikely. It's bad business on a variety of levels, the least of which being it would cost the team $11.5 million in 2013.

So, this is where they stand as they try to negotiate a contract extension. The Patriots can exclusively negotiate with Welker until free agency begins March 12.

"I'd love him to be around," Kraft said. "He's a great guy. Like I've said all along, it takes two sides to make a transaction. We have to manage the lawyers and the agents that they don't mess it up. I think Wes wants to be with us, and we want him here. It's just a matter of whether both sides can be intelligent."

Kraft made similar comments last year, but the contract talks went off the rails. Things came to a formal halt on July 16, the deadline for franchise players to ink an extension. They haven't been permitted to sign an official deal since then.

That also shaped the make-or-break offseason for Welker's future with the Patriots. The mighty slot machine, who turns 32 in March, has been the most productive interior receiver in the league since he joined the Pats in 2007, amassing 672 receptions, 80 more than anyone else.

Welker's value to quarterback Tom Brady isn't up for debate, either. His value is widespread, and it's proven over time, as he has caught 29.6 percent of Brady's completions since 2007.

Welker and the Patriots will discuss how much those numbers are worth over the next few weeks.