Vince Wilfork and the New England Patriots finally found a deal that worked for both sides.
Fans panicked after reports that Wilfork ripped the name tag off his locker and packed up his possessions. But in the end, the two parties found common ground, and a three-year contract extension works out for Wilfork and the Patriots. Wilfork can earn up to $8 million in 2014 as part of the extension, and the Patriots got some cap relief.
Wilfork’s new contract is reportedly a one-year deal with $3 million guaranteed and a two-year option. That allows the Patriots to spread out Wilfork’s cap hit over the next three years without the risk of signing him to a longterm deal — the defensive tackle’s contract is not guaranteed after 2014.
Wilfork was going to count $11.6 million against the salary cap this season before the extension. That number is expected to dramatically go down with the new deal.
The Patriots get their defensive leader back, and the deal provides some clarity to a still-uncertain defensive front. Wilfork is still recovering from a torn Achilles, however, so it’s not guaranteed that he will be back for training camp or even the start of the season. It’s likely there are playing-time incentives in Wilfork’s contract that protect the Patriots if he can’t get back on the field.
If Wilfork can return to form, the Patriots will likely exercise those options. It will depend on Wilfork’s play and health whether he and the Patriots are right back in this situation next season.
There’s more uncertainty for the Patriots at defensive tackle with Tommy Kelly recovering from a torn ACL and Armond Armstead recovering from an infection that required surgery and forced him to miss the entire 2013 season. The Patriots also have Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones, Joe Vellano and Marcus Forston returning in 2014.
That might look like they’re stacked at the position, but in reality there are very few guarantees for the Patriots up front since Siliga, Jones, Vellano and Forston are all unproven. Defensive tackle is still a draft need for New England despite Wilfork’s extension.
Fortunately for the Patriots, the first and second rounds of the draft are loaded with players that should appeal to New England and they’ll have a great leader in Wilfork to teach them the ropes.