Hampton's deal helps shape NT market

INDIANAPOLIS -- Because nose tackles in the 3-4 defense have unique responsibilities, it is often difficult to set a value on them based on current market conditions. With the Pittsburgh Steelers and nose tackle Casey Hampton agreeing on a three-year, $21 million contract with $11 million in bonuses/guarantees, according to reports, this should help the Patriots and Vince Wilfork in their negotiations.

Hampton's deal strenghtens the Patriots' position when it comes to Wilfork.

There are two primary factors in play, average salary per year and bonuses/guarantees.

Based on Hampton's $7 million per year deal, Wilfork figures to be in the $7-9 million range per year (he's a superior player and four years younger). As for the bonuses/guarantees, that would be contingent on how long the contract extends -- a shorter deal would bring that number down, a longer deal would have that number rising.

The topic of 3-4 nose tackles was raised to San Francisco 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan, whose club runs a multiple defense, this morning at the combine.

"When it's a base 3-4, the nose is very, very important," he said. "It sets up the whole interior there. If you watch our tape and you're talking about the 3-4, we're in the [four-man line] just as much when we go to our nickel and sub packages. So you're talking about a two-down player at nose. But that goes to show you the importance that we're willing to pay that much for a two-down player."