Chandler Jones ‘Ready To Fly’ As Leader After Vince Wilfork’s Departure

The New England Patriots lost a defensive captain this offseason, but leadership might not be an issue in 2015.

The Patriots declined to pick up defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s 2015 contract option, making him an unrestricted free agent. He signed a two-year contract with the Houston Texans, leaving a void in the Patriots’ defensive line and locker room.

Fellow 2014 captains safety Devin McCourty and linebacker Jerod Mayo remain on the Patriots, and defensive end Rob Ninkovich served as a captain in 2013 after the defense was ravaged by injuries.

Fourth-year defensive end Chandler Jones is ready to step up, too, as the team must decide in the coming weeks whether they will pick up his contract option for 2016.

“Vince was a great leader on our team,” Jones told reporters, via’s Mike Reiss, at a volunteer event with the Special Olympics. “Like I said (in) a previous interview, he was a big brother, a best friend and a mentor. He’s taught me a lot. I feel like it’s one of those situations where you kind of push the bird off of the nest and he flies away. I feel like I’m that bird and I’m ready to fly.”

Fourth-year linebacker Dont’a Hightower also took on more of a leadership role in 2013 and 2014 when Mayo went down with season-ending injuries in consecutive seasons. Wilfork is an 11-year veteran who will be sorely missed, but the Patriots are in good shape when it comes to defensive leadership.

Thumbnail photo via AP Images

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