Patriots; Replacing Vince Wilfork

Photo credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Photo credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Vince Wilfork has reportedly asked the Patriots for his release after the Patriots reportedly asked him to take a pay cut in the form of an extension. With Wilfork seemingly out of the picture now, how do you replace such a physical presence on your defensive line?

An extension is similar to what Brady did for the Patriots last offseason. An extension takes none of your guaranteed money away necessarily; it just spreads it out over a longer period of time, or shifts it into roster bonuses to relieve the team of a large cap hit. It’s a pay cut for Wilfork because what he was supposed to make in one season is now taking two or three seasons.

Wilfork demands a lot of attention, but the nose tackle isn’t as important as it was when Wilfork first got to New England. Back when the Patriots ran a three down lineman set, Wilfork took up two bodies and he was the foundation of the defensive line. Now, the Patriots run a four down lineman set, which makes him expendable.

I think you have the answer on your roster in Tommy Kelly, who was in on 22 tackles and had 2.5 sacks last season in just five games. Seven of Kelly’s 11 seasons he has been completely healthy, so injury history isn’t a concern there.

In one less game than Kelly, Vince Wilfork posted just nine total tackles and no sacks and showed signs of slowing down. Wilfork then tore his Achilles and now has a question mark, for such a big man coming back from that injury, as to how much he can really contribute.

Kelly (33) and Wilfork (32) had one major difference last season while sitting out – Wilfork made way more money. Cutting Wilfork would give the Patriots $7.5 million on the cap, which is sitting at just under $10 million after the Revis signing.

Wilfork was set to cost $11.6 million against the cap in 2014 after his $7.5 million base salary, a $3.6 million signing bonus and a $500,000 misc bonus. Kelly is going to cost just $1.805 million against the cap with a base-salary of just $955,000.

My hope is that Wilfork doesn’t get turned into some sort of monster. Fans expect Wilfork to be Brady and ‘loyalty’ was a word I saw thrown around all day yesterday. Loyalty works in both ways – both sides signed the dotted line and Wilfork is just as ‘loyal’ as the team was.

Wilfork has never hit free agency and this could very well be his last contract in the NFL. He could come back strong, but in all likelihood, Wilfork will deal with father-time and, with that injury, he has a long road.

It’s the perfect time for these two to split and for the Patriots to get better in the pass rush on the defensive line as opposed to count on Wilfork, who is more of a run-stopper.

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