Crafting a Wilfork deal for both sides

January, 30, 2010
For all the talk about the Patriots, Vince Wilfork and a long-term contract extension, one area that has seemingly been overlooked is this: What would be a fair deal for both sides?

Wilfork has stated he wants long-term security. The Patriots have offered him a long-term contract, but it is below what he feels is market value.

So what is the resolution?

Here is one independent attempt, with no agenda toward either side, at presenting a deal that could work for both parties:

Term: 4 years (Through 2013)

Total value: $30 million (Taking the $7 million franchise figure, multiplying it by 4, then adding $2 million as a show of good faith for playing out his six-year rookie deal)

Guarantees and bonuses: $23 million (The most important part of any deal)

How the numbers were computed: The first step in a negotiation is finding a comparable player who recently signed a similar deal. Jets nose Kris Jenkins signed a reported five-year, $30.25 million contract in February of 2008. It looks like there were about $21 million in bonuses and guarantees. Wilfork, who is a better player than Jenkins from this view, should get more. How much more depends on the length of the deal – the longer the deal, the higher the figure (in this case, four years is a short term). This also factors in present market conditions, the fact Wilfork isn’t on the open market, franchise tag leverage, and the uncertain labor forecast.

Protections for Patriots: Like the Jets did for Jenkins, they could implement language/incentives if there were concerns about Wilfork’s weight. Wilfork doesn’t seem like the type of player who would stop working or taking care of himself after a big contract, but if the team was concerned, this could be part of the deal.

Protections for Wilfork: With the NFL’s uncertain labor forecast, and the possibility of no football in 2011, the $23 million in guarantees and bonuses should be frontloaded. At least $14 million should come in the first year (double the franchise figure), with most of the remainder coming in the second year.

Why it works for the Patriots: Locking up Wilfork to this type of deal – which is similar to Richard Seymour’s pact in 2006 -- should be in the budget because when the Patriots and Asante Samuel couldn’t come to a long-term agreement two years ago, the thinking was: “That money should now go to a player like Wilfork.” This would also send an important message through the locker room. “We will take care of players who do it right.”

Why it works for Wilfork: He receives the long-term security he desires. At the same time, by going with a shorter term, he potentially has another crack at free agency in four years when he is 32.

Conclusion: At the end of the day, the only way to fairly analyze the situation between Wilfork and the Patriots is to know the answers to the following questions: 1) What are the Patriots willing to offer? 2) What is Wilfork looking for in a long-term deal? Until those answers come to light, it is challenging to come to a conclusion one way or the other. So in this case, my feeling is that this would be a fair middle ground. If the Patriots aren’t willing to go there, they should soften their stance. If Wilfork is seeking more, he should soften his stance.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter



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