New England Patriots: Vince Wilfork

Patriots preview: Make-or-break stretch

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
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Tom Brady recently said that a team truly doesn't know what it has until December, and it's almost as if he was looking at the schedule when he said that. A Nov. 2 home game against the Broncos, followed by the bye and then a Sunday night road game against the Colts looks like the iron of the schedule. After a home date with Detroit, then it's a challenging back-to-back road set against the Packers (Nov. 30) and Chargers (Dec. 7) in which Belichick is considering keeping the team out West for the week leading into the Sunday night game at San Diego. That stretch should tell us all we need to know about the Patriots.

Complete Patriots season preview.

Checking the locks: Patriots' DTs

July, 7, 2014
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As part of this slow time on the NFL calendar, when we'll be taking a break to recharge for the 2014 season, we introduce the pre-produced "checking the locks" series in which we analyze the players on the Patriots' roster who are "locks" to stick. Today, it's defensive tackles.

Sure-fire locks: Vince Wilfork, Dominique Easley, Chris Jones

Near locks: Tommy Kelly, Sealver Siliga

Trying to get in the door: Joe Vellano, Armond Armstead, Marcus Forston, Seali'i Epenesa, L.T. Tuipulotu

Wilfork
ANALYSIS: Much like the Patriots' running backs who could be viewed through two different lenses (bigger early down backs and smaller "passing" backs), the Patriots have a similar setup at defensive tackle with some bigger-bodied run-stuffers who aren't known as much for penetrating gaps (Wilfork, Siliga) and some smaller penetrators more likely to win with quickness than pure power (Easley, Jones). One area to monitor is the health of some key players as Wilfork (ruptured Achilles), Easley (torn ACL), Kelly (torn ACL) and Armstead (missed 2013 with an infection) are all coming off serious injuries. Another factor to consider is that in some sub packages, the Patriots reduce end Chandler Jones to more of a defensive tackle role. Still, the Patriots felt they could have absorbed one more "lock" in pursuing veteran Kevin Williams before Williams signed with Seattle, which is a sign that Bill Belichick might still be concerned with the depth at this spot.

Some context regarding Kevin Williams, DTs

June, 18, 2014
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Veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams told ESPN.com NFL Nation Vikings reporter Ben Goessling that he took a little less money to sign with the Seattle Seahawks than the New England Patriots. With the specifics of Williams' contract now known, there is some added context on how far the Patriots were willing to extend financially.

Williams
Via colleague Field Yates, Williams' deal breaks down this way:

Term/total value: One year, $2.1 million
Signing bonus: $250,000
Base salary: $1.5 million ($250,000 guaranteed)
Incentives: Up to $350,000 in per-game roster bonuses

With Williams electing to sign in Seattle, here is a snapshot look at the Patriots' defensive tackle depth chart, with a quick-hit thought on each player:

Vince Wilfork (6-2, 325): Captain and 11-year veteran is making progress in his return from a ruptured Achilles last September. Looks to be moving well.

Tommy Kelly (6-6, 310): Another 11-year veteran, he took another step in his return from a torn ACL by participating in 11-on-11 drills Tuesday.

Dominique Easley (6-2, 288): First-round draft choice is coming off two torn ACLs over the past 22 months, suffered in college, and has yet to take the field this spring.

Chris Jones (6-1, 309) Second-year player was claimed on waivers last year and led all Patriots defensive tackles in snaps played in 2013. Best when penetrating.

Sealver Siliga (6-2, 325): After a slow start to his career, the run-stuffer looks like he has built some momentum as a developmental prospect behind Wilfork.

Armond Armstead (6-5, 305): The former Southern Cal and Canadian Football League standout has been sidelined for most of spring camps after missing all of last season with an infection.

Joe Vellano (6-2, 300): Hard-working second-year player from Maryland is a lunch pail type of guy who plays with top effort.

Marcus Forston (6-3, 305): Second-year player has spent multiple seasons on the practice squad and has filled in when injuries hit.

L.T. Tuipulotu (6-1, 305): Undrafted free agent from Utah is on the developmental track.

Seali'i Epenesa (6-1, 310): Undrafted free agent from UCLA was signed on Tuesday.

What stood out from Patriots' OTA

May, 30, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On a picture perfect Friday morning, the New England Patriots held their third organized team activity of the week on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium (11 a.m.-12:45 p.m.), and the first OTA open to media members.

The goal was to learn more about the team after the OTA, which lasted about 1 hour and 40 minutes, and that has been accomplished.

Here are some of the things that stood out, with more to come a bit later:

Wilfork
1. Wilfork running and Vollmer in drills: Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (ruptured Achilles, Sept. 29) and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (broken ankle, Oct. 27) are two starters attempting to return from serious injuries last season. Wilfork was present with his teammates for the warm-up part of practice, taking up residence on the far left side of the jogging line (next to veteran defensive end Will Smith). He didn’t participate in any drills, but seeing Wilfork on the field was one of the main things we were looking for today because it indicates progress. Meanwhile, we had little idea of what to expect from Vollmer, and were surprised to see him not only in the warm-up part of practice, but also in other drills. It looked like he stayed out of the last part of practice, 11-on-11 drills, but overall it seems like he's come along nicely this offseason.

2. Cannon getting some LT work: We know not to read too much into things in a spring voluntary practice, as players are moved around based on the absences or limitations of others. Still, it seemed somewhat notable that four-year veteran Marcus Cannon took his reps at left tackle, a result of starter Nate Solder being held out of drills. When we think of Cannon, it’s usually through the lens of right tackle/right guard. Perhaps he factors into the mix as a swing possibility this season, providing some insurance on the left side as well. He started 12 games at left tackle at Texas Christian, but was primarily a right tackle in college (24 starts). Cannon has become a valuable lineman for the Patriots in recent years, and that stood out on the practice field.

Brady
3. Brady the coach: Watching quarterback Tom Brady work at his craft, and also push others, is the norm in this setting. We saw it again when receivers were running "go" routes against air (no defenders) and Brady wasn't pleased when several of them slowed down. Brady's booming voice could be heard across the practice fields, imploring the receivers to do better. Brady is as hard-driving in his approach as ever.

4. Lombardi and Belichick link. When media members arrived for practice, and players were going through their warm-up, Bill Belichick stood on the side of the field chatting with Michael Lombardi, whose official title is assistant to the coaching staff. Lombardi, the former Cleveland Browns general manager, has always been a trusted sounding board for Belichick, and that was visible for everyone to see at the start of practice.

5. Following up on our five. Leading into practice, we highlighted five players we wanted to follow up on based on their limitations in some form last season. Here is the rundown:

WR Danny Amendola -- Practiced in full and looked quick and decisive.

DT Armond Armstead -- Was on the field with his teammates, a sign that he is at a point that should put him in position to compete for a role as an interior pocket-pusher. He is still limited in his work.

WR Mark Harrison -- The first-year receiver who missed all of last season with a foot injury was on the field and practiced in full. He had one noticeable drop, but we’re not going to hold it against him in this setting. He hasn’t played football for a year and is clearly still getting back into the groove.

WR Josh Boyce -- Second-year receiver practiced in full.

TE D.J. Williams -- Top “move” tight end on the depth chart watched most of the practice from the sideline, likely because of some minor ailment.

6. Attendance report. Those not spotted on the practice field included cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, receiver Aaron Dobson (foot), defensive tackle Dominique Easley (knee), receiver Brandon LaFell, left guard Logan Mankins and special teams captain Matthew Slater. There was a second group of players that was present but limited in their work, such as Wilfork and tight end Rob Gronkowski, as expected.

Leftover pieces of Patriots mail

May, 21, 2014
May 21
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A few leftovers from our weekly Patriots mailbag:

Dave (New Jersey): Hey Mike, I wanted to know what you have heard on the rehab front for Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork. Have you heard when they will be ready to go? Are they expected to recover 100 percent?

Wilfork
Mayo
Mayo
Dave, reporters caught up with Mayo on May 6 and he struck an optimistic tone. I think he has a good chance to be ready. Wilfork is keeping a lower profile but I was told, not surprisingly, that he's really putting in the time. One observer noted he was drenched from an intense workout the last time they saw him. Still, that's a tough one to come back from and we probably won't know for a little while on him.

Bob Q (Coventry, RI): Mike, I know there have been many questions about the Jimmy Garappolo pick, but I haven't seen this one before: If the Pats truly have an eye on Tom Brady's successor, why didn't they take Teddy Bridgewater? Was Dominique Easley so much of a temptation?

Bob, if the right offer was there for consideration, I think their preferred course of action would have been to trade down in the draft. After that, I just don't think they were going to pick a quarterback in the first round regardless. They obviously thought highly of Easley, but let's say Easley wasn't available, I would have been really surprised if they picked a quarterback there. While part of drafting a quarterback was with possible succession plans in mind, I believe that was a lesser part of the consideration than ensuring the No. 2 spot is ultimately in good hands.

Rick B. (Chesapeake, VA): Mike, will you be traveling with the Patriots to Richmond, Virginia, for the joint practices with the Redskins? I will be wearing 12's throwback jersey -- but looking for you on the sideline. Beyond excited for these practices. Virginia Pats fans will represent well in the backyard of the Skins!

Rick, I highly recommend those joint practices for anyone within driving distance. They will be open to the public and are usually a great take. Maybe we can arrange some type of get-together as the date approaches.

Anton (South Korea): Hi Mike, do you think BB shifts the offensive focus away from the "12" personnel grouping? Given the lack of TE personnel, and the two-tight end attack faltering in the playoffs in recent years, I believe BB and Josh McDaniels employ a new strategy on offense.

Anton, I think that's a fair assumption based on the present personnel. We should still see it, and we know the offense is game-plan specific, but in the end I think it's mostly about getting your five best skill-position players on the field. I see more upside at receiver right now, so I'd estimate that three-receiver package could be more prevalent based on the present snapshot. Of course, that can always change. There's a long way to go.

Richie (Los Angeles): Hi Mike, my question is why are rookies not allowed to participate with their new team until graduation? What if they are not graduating?

Richie, the way it was explained to me one time is that the NFL simply wants to promote the importance of graduating. I thought Bills coach Doug Marrone had an interesting take on this last year.

Video: Assessing Wilfork's health, role

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
10:00
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video

When considering the possibilities for the Patriots in the upcoming draft, the topic of Vince Wilfork's health came up with the panel at ESPNBoston.com's recent draft event.

The main question was whether or not Wilfork, who is coming off a torn Achilles, will be able to be an every-down player. Tedy Bruschi said that given the current Patriots roster, Wilfork will be needed to play every down, but that may not be a problem.

Bruschi said the offseason is hugely important for Wilfork. "He's so much of an athlete that he can come back in the best shape of his life and almost resurrect his career so he has another mini-career with the Patriots."

Mike Reiss brought up the notion held by some that a big nose tackle is less important these days with teams playing so much in sub packages, but disputed that idea, citing the Patriots' loss to the Broncos this season when Denver running backs gashed the New England line.

Clayborn/Morgan double dip rates highly

April, 7, 2014
Apr 7
5:03
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In a piece on SportsonEarth.com, Mike Tanier looks at the best all-time "double dips" in the first round of the NFL draft.

When a team hits on two first-round picks in the same year, it can be a franchise-altering turn of events. The New England Patriots have had multiple first-round selections twice in Bill Belichick's tenure, with the combination of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and tight end Benjamin Watson in 2004, and the duo of defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower in 2012.

But it was a different Patriots "double dip" that registered on Tanier's top 10 list -- the 1977 duo of cornerback Raymond Clayborn and receiver Stanley Morgan.

"Morgan and Clayborn helped the Patriots shake the perennial doormat status they held from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s and were veteran leaders on the 1985 AFC Championship team," Tanier writes in ranking them sixth. "Not bad for a pair of converted running backs."

Clayborn's candidacy for the Patriots Hall of Fame was a hot topic last week when the nomination committee met to narrow down this year's finalists, so Tanier's timing is impeccable with a fun read that also includes another Patriots twist.

The No. 8 all-time double dip -- the 49ers' tandem of linebacker Patrick Willis and left tackle Joe Staley -- came as a result of the Patriots trading their late first-rounder to San Francisco.

Breaking down Vince Wilfork's deal

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
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Below is a breakdown of the contract Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork agreed to on Thursday with the team:

Wilfork
2014
Signing bonus: $1.3 million
Base salary: $1.3 million (guaranteed)
Weight clause incentive: $300,000
Offseason workout bonus: $200,000
Per-game roster bonus 1: $500,000 for the first game on the 53-man roster
Per-game roster bonus 2: $87,500 for each game on the 46-man game day roster (up to $1.4 million)
Playing-time incentives:
If he plays 50 percent of the defensive snaps: $500,000
If he plays 60 percent of the defensive snaps: $1.25 million
If he plays 70 percent of the defensive snaps: $2 million
If he plays 70 percent of the defensive snaps and the team makes the divisional round of the playoffs, he makes $2.5 million
Defensive incentive: If Wilfork plays 70 percent of the defensive snaps and the team is top 10 in points allowed, he earns $500,000
Base total: $5 million
Incentives total: $3 million
Maximum value: $8 million ($2.6 guaranteed)

In restructuring Wilfork's deal, the Patriots earned an estimated immediate cap savings of $4.9 million. However, if Wilfork reaches all of his incentives for the 2014 season, their overall cap savings from the previous contract structure would be $900,000.

The contract includes an option for the final two years, which the Patriots must exercise or decline by the end of the 2014 league year.

2015
Roster bonus: $4 million (due on the first day of the league year)
Base salary: $3 million
Weight clause incentive: $300,000
Offseason workout bonus: $200,000
Per-game roster bonus: $31,250 for each game on the 46-man roster (up to $500,000)
Playtime/defensive incentive: If Wilfork plays 70 percent of the defensive snaps and the team makes the divisional round of the playoffs, he earns $500,000
Maximum value: $8.5 million

2016
Base salary: $5 million
Weight clause incentive: $300,000
Offseason workout bonus: $200,000
Per-game roster bonus: $31,250 for each game on the 46-man roster (up to $500,000)
Playtime/defensive incentive: If Wilfork plays 70 percent of the defensive snaps and the team makes the divisional round of the playoffs, he earns $500,000
Maximum value: $6.5 million

Overall value: 3 years, $23 million ($2.6 million of which is guaranteed)

Quick-hit: As expected, this deal provides incentive for both sides. Wilfork has a higher ceiling than his previous deal, which had just one more year remaining. The team has the opportunity to decline the option and has created short-term salary-cap relief and less guaranteed money for 2014. If Wilfork plays at a high level, the team would likely exercise the option. If he returns to form coming off of an Achilles tear, $23 million over three years is a worthwhile investment for a player of his caliber at that position.

Teammates tweet Wilfork congratulations

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
7:45
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After news broke that defensive tackle Vince Wilfork had agreed to terms on a new deal with the Patriots that could run through 2016, teammates took to Twitter to react.

Below are some of their tweets:

Defensive end Chandler Jones:
Defensive tackle Marcus Forston:

 

Safety Devin McCourty:

Compromise means Wilfork can stay awhile

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
6:10
PM ET
ORLANDO, Fla. -- It seems that it is becoming more and more rare for a player to start and finish his career with one team.

[+] EnlargeVince Wilfork
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesVince Wilfork looks like a good bet to remain in New England after restructuring his contract and agreeing to a three-year deal.
After a sensitive stretch of two weeks in which defensive tackle Vince Wilfork's Patriots future hung in the balance, the Patriots and Wilfork reached a three-year deal Thursday, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

And with that, it gives Wilfork a great chance to join Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, Matt Light and Kevin Faulk as franchise stars who went wire-to-wire in New England.

As it often is, this was about compromise.

The Patriots needed some salary-cap relief from Wilfork, who was due to earn $7.5 million this season and count $11.6 million against the cap.

In turn, Wilfork likely had to sacrifice some money in the short term, although we will have to see the structure of the contract to know for sure, and understand exactly how much. It appears that whatever he gave up in the short term, he has a chance to earn back in future years, with even more upside.

Wilfork had reportedly asked for his release two weeks ago, and cleaned out his locker in the process. This wasn't easy at times.

But a lot changed since two weeks ago, and owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick dropped several hints about that at the NFL's annual meeting.

They just needed a little more time to push it over the goal line, which they officially did Thursday.

Timing key with Wilfork, Patriots

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
3:40
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- A lot can change in a span of two weeks, and that is the big takeaway when it comes to the Patriots and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork
It doesn't mean they'll ultimately strike a contract agreement that works for both sides, but it does clear up some confusion over the last two days at the NFL's annual meeting at the Ritz-Carlton.

First, owner Robert Kraft shared his thoughts Monday that he hopes Wilfork remains a Patriot and that he believes Wilfork feels the same way. That cautious optimism indicated that perhaps there was forward momentum between the sides.

But almost immediately after Kraft said those words, a report surfaced that Wilfork was so angry, he had "ripped" his nameplate off and cleaned out his locker. In some media circles, that blunted what Kraft said and created a picture of acrimony between the sides.

Except ...

"That happened a long time ago," a source said.

That timing is key when it comes to Wilfork and the context surrounding his present situation.

Surely, he was angry two weeks ago when he requested his release and did indeed clean out his locker, as first reported by the Boston Herald. Doing so represented a symbolic showing of his discontent.

But that doesn't account for what could have happened over the last two weeks or so. Things have changed, the sides are talking.

That probably explains why Bill Belichick seemed to go out of his way Tuesday morning to dismiss the idea of a contentious situation with Wilfork. It might have been at one point, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's that way now.

There have been some steps forward, but more are needed to push it over the goal-line. As we learned last year with Wes Welker, just because things might be looking up doesn't mean an agreement is forthcoming. It can fizzle out quickly.

But one thing is clear: The Patriots and Wilfork are in a better place than they were two weeks ago.

Belichick: Should verify with Vince

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
10:05
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- When a reporter asked Bill Belichick about defensive tackle Vince Wilfork's request to be released, this was Belichick's response at Tuesday's AFC coaches breakfast:

"You need to talk to him about any of those statements, which I think you should verify first."

Wilfork
Earlier in the breakfast, Belichick had been asked about the "contentious" situation with Wilfork and said, "I don't really know the nature of your question, maybe that's something you have to talk to Vince about."

Belichick's remarks came one day after owner Robert Kraft said, "I very much hope we get it done, and I believe [Vince] very much would like to do it as well."

These comments have stood out to me over the past 24 hours.

Belichick's, in particular, seems to call into question the context and/or accuracy of Wilfork's reported request to be released, or perhaps Belichick is simply focusing on the present snapshot, which has shifted from two weeks ago.

There was a point Tuesday morning when Belichick was asked specifically if Wilfork had requested his release, and the coach said he wouldn't get into specifics on any players.

The big takeaway from all of this?

It's clear the sides are working through a complicated contractual issue, and in light of that, Wilfork's future with the franchise still hangs in the sensitive balance.

But remarks from Belichick and Kraft paint a picture of a situation that isn't as contentious as it might seem to be from a public perception standpoint.

How that affects the endgame still remains to be seen.

Taking stock of Patriots' salary cap

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
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Now that we have definitive financial details on contracts signed by receivers Julian Edelman (4 years) and Brandon LaFell (3 years); cornerbacks Darrelle Revis (2 years) and Brandon Browner (3 years); and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (2 years), there is a better feel for where things stand with the New England Patriots' salary cap.

Salary-cap space is often fluid, so we'll focus on the general range of $4-7 million in space for the Patriots at this time.

That's not a lot of breathing room on the $133 million cap, especially when it comes to factoring in space needed to sign draft picks. Also, only the top 51 contracts are accounted for when factoring salary-cap space at this time on the NFL calendar.

As is often stated, a team can quickly alter its salary-cap picture with a few transactions. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for example, created about $16 million in space when they released Revis last week.

With this in mind, here are a few areas where the Patriots might seek cap relief:

Wilfork
Vince Wilfork -- The defensive captain has an $11.6 million salary-cap charge. The Patriots would gain about $7.6 million in space if Wilfork is not on the roster, but that would also create a rather large void at the heart of the defense. The team would seemingly like to have the best of both worlds -- Wilfork on the roster, but at a reduced cap charge.

Dan Connolly -- The starting right guard is scheduled to earn a base salary of $3 million in 2014, and will count $4 million on the cap. If he isn't on the roster, the team would pick up about $2.6 million in space, but it would also create an opening on the line to fill. Similar to Wilfork, the Patriots would seemingly like to have the best of borh worlds -- Connolly on the roster, but at a reduced cap charge.

Adrian Wilson -- The veteran safety who spent last season on injured reserve has a $1.8 million cap charge. He looked to be in jeopardy of not making the roster out of training camp last year, which would seem to put his spot on the team in 2014 in jeopardy. The Patriots would pick up just shy of $1 million in space if he's not on the roster.

McCourty
Devin McCourty -- A foundation player who figures to be approached about a contract extension at some point, he counts $5.1 million against the salary cap in 2014, which is the final year of his initial rookie contract. A big-money extension could create space in the $2-3 million range depending on the way it's structured.

Stephen Gostkowski -- The reliable kicker has a $3.8 million cap charge in the final year of his contract. Similar to McCourty, he's a candidate for an extension that could create some breathing room on the cap.

Logan Mankins -- The perennial Pro Bowl guard is scheduled to earn $6.2 million in base salary this season. The Patriots could turn that into a signing bonus and protate it over the remaining three years of the deal, which would lower the 2014 cap charge but increase the cap charge in 2015 and 2016 to potentially set up a similar situation to what the Patriots have now with Wilfork.

QUICK-HIT THOUGHTS: In putting this list together, a hat tip is warranted for Miguel Benzan of PatsFans.com, who does meticulous work on the cap. Some of his latest work on the Patriots' cap situation can be read here, and he keeps an updated snapshot of the team's salary-cap status that is often a nice guide. If there is one thought to sum it all up, it's that a big-money signing or acquisition (e.g. Jared Allen/DeSean Jackson) seems highly unlikely at this point. At some point down the line, the Patriots could get some relief from Aaron Hernandez's $7.5 million cap charge, but there is nothing imminent on that front as we understand it. That figures to be a longer process.

With Wilfork, legacy vs. principle

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
5:45
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Why is Vince Wilfork reluctant to accept the team's desire to alter his $7.5 million contract?

That question has been asked quite a bit since news broke Thursday that Wilfork has asked the Patriots to release him. It has been asked, in part, because it's highly unlikely that the 32-year-old Wilfork, who is coming off a torn Achilles, would receive that type of money elsewhere as a free-agent.

[+] EnlargeVince Wilfork
AP Photo / Jim MahoneyVince Wilfork is putting his Patriots legacy on the line with his stand.
We've covered the business-based history of Wilfork's time in New England, which adds context to how he might view the situation.

Now let's go a little deeper.

From this viewpoint, what makes this a compelling situation is that it puts two powerful forces in conflict -- legacy vs. principle.

Wilfork has been, by almost all accounts, a great Patriot. He traveled with the team last year despite being on season-ending injured reserve for the final 14 games, which is unprecedented in Bill Belichick's tenure, and his presence with the team was the subject of a "60 Minutes Sports" segment promoted by the club itself.

That's part of his legacy as one of the all-time great Patriots. He also has a Super Bowl ring from his first year with the team.

If the personable Wilfork starts and finishes his career in New England, he'd have a Tedy Bruschi-type presence in this region for decades if he so desired. Those situations are rare and to some, like Bruschi, that legacy would trump all.

But Wilfork is also deeply principled, and there is something to admire about that as well.

Even if remaining in New England gives him the chance to earn the most money in 2014, that's not always the clincher for every player. If Wilfork feels like he's already made concessions based on his business relationship with the team over the last 10 years, and doesn't have one more in him, that stance warrants respect and maybe a divorce is best.

In this case, one simply can't tell another person how they should feel. It's not a right-or-wrong-answer situation.

This is similar to what unfolded with Wes Welker last offseason, just to a little bit of a lesser degree. Welker felt it was hard to take the Patriots' final offer after giving everything he had to the franchise for six years, a stretch of time that included coming back from a torn ACL in about seven months. To Welker, it was easier to accept that same deal elsewhere in the form of a fresh start.

Based on Wilfork's request to be released, it appears he's reached the same point.

But that doesn't mean it is necessarily the end game.

The club seems prepared to give this some time to simmer before it reaches its conclusion, and maybe in time, there is a change of heart with either side -- Wilfork accepting the revised deal, or the team electing to honor the final year of the contract as is.

Thus, Wilfork's future will hang in the sensitive balance a bit longer -- legacy vs. principle.

Schefter's insights on Edelman, Wilfork

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
11:40
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ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was on the “Mike and Mike in the Morning” show on ESPN Radio on Friday (listen to the podcast here ) and discussed a couple of topics of interest to New England Patriots fans:

Edelman
On Julian Edelman: Schefter predicts the receiver market will start playing itself out today. So where do the Patriots stand with Edelman, who is visiting the 49ers?

“[The Patriots are] trying to re-sign Julian Edelman, they want him back. But they want him back at a price and a number they have in mind,” Schefter said. “The Patriots have been pretty responsible and pretty thoughtful of the marketplace for certain players. So, they’ve given Julian Edelman an offer. Clearly, it’s not to his satisfaction. So it’s up to him to play this game, which isn’t really a game, it’s his business, to go out there to see, does San Francisco or another team value me more than New England? And if they do, how much more, and is it worth it to me to move? That’s what we’re going to find out today.

“I know [the 49ers are] interested. I spoke to them. We’ll see what happens with Julian Edelman there.”

Wilfork
On Vince Wilfork: There has been some speculation that perhaps Wilfork’s request for the Patriots to cut him was somehow tied to the team handing out big money to Darrelle Revis, but Schefter says that is not the case.

“Revis and Wilfork are completely unrelated,” he said. “What happened was Vince Wilfork told the Patriots weeks ago, days ago, a long time ago, 'I am not taking a pay cut, I’m not doing that.’ So now New England is in a situation much like the Dallas Cowboys were when DeMarcus Ware said ‘I’m not going to take a pay cut.’

“So you get into these situations where the agent’s got to figure out the player’s value. He’s got to call around and say ‘Hey what’s Vince Wilfork worth to you on the open market? If he were to be free what would you be willing to pay him.’ You get a general idea of what your client would be worth on the open market.”

Schefter explained that Wilfork’s agent would compare the feedback he got from other teams to the restructured deal the Patriots are offering and decide from there the preferred route.

“Right now they’re in a standoff,” Schefter said. “The way it was described to me last night, it’s probably best for Vince Wilfork just to take a step back and we’ll see how the situation plays out. It’s not like we’re going to get an answer on this today. ... This is something that is its own negotiation even though he’s under contract.”

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