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.