The New England Patriots have decisions to make as they move on from their Super Bowl win in Arizona. The Patriots and long time defensive captain Vince Wilfork should go out on top. Wilfork’s reworked deal gave him one year of guaranteed salary and an additional two years on a team option that will have to be picked up this offseason – that’s a tough decision.
Wilfork has been vital blocking up the middle of line of scrimmage since 2004, when he was drafted by the Patriots, but was invisible late in the year for stretches. His age, salary and body type is something I thought would lead to his departure last season, but Wilfork reworked his deal and gave the Patriots temporary cap relief. Though he took less, he’s still making too much for what he gives them and with decisions forthcoming for the Patriots on their own guys in free agency, the decision seems obvious. Don’t pick up the option and move on from Wilfork.
Jonathan Kraft acknowledged a need to get going on a deal with Darrelle Revis. Devin McCourty has been a staple in a safety position that has seen numerous players rotate in and out next to him. Shane Vereen showed how versatile he can be in the passing game on Super Bowl Sunday. To me, these three are the key players to resign. The money has to come from somewhere as the Patriots don’t have a ton of cap space available.
The Patriots early season struggles in 2014 hinged on the line of scrimmage. Offensively, the line wasn’t protecting Brady enough to let routes develop and run the ball effectively. Defensively, the line had trouble stopping the run early in the season and it led to the two losses against Miami (191 yards rushing) and Kansas City (207 yards rushing). Run defense is Wilfork’s specialty, but that alone isn’t enough to keep the big guy anymore.
Wilfork is a great player, teammate, person and role model, but when it comes to signing guys in the passing game, I have to go with that. I know this article will strike a chord with some fans and that’s okay because I am not screaming to get Wilfork out of town. I just don’t think picking up the option and paying him two more years at an additional $14.5 million potentially is a good idea for New England.
If the Patriots have struggled with anything over the past two seasons, it’s in getting any kind of pressure on the quarterback consistently. They ranked 14th in sacks and never really get their hands up and bat down a ball at the line of scrimmage. it’s no secret that Vince is a great athlete (he can dunk a basketball) and can do these things, but he doesn’t. The Patriots priority should be addressing the pass rush after resigning Revis.
Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin are all examples of the way the quarterback position is trending. They can move and avoid even a good pass rush, but I wouldn’t consider the Pats pass rush that good.
If Wilfork is cut before June 2, the Patriots would save upwards of $7 million on their cap to sign vital players like Revis, McCourty and Vereen. According to PatsCap, the Patriots have a little more than $4 million to spend and that’s including the ridiculous place holder for Darrelle Revis. They are over the expected 2015 NFL salary cap ($142 million) by a little (Pats cap: $143.9 million), but have $6.4 million in unused salary cap rollover into 2015 from 2014.
As you can see, the Patriots don’t have a ton of extra cash to mess with. Sure, they’ll save money if they lock up Revis long term, but it’s not enough to sign McCourty, Gostkowski, Vereen and Ridley if he’s your thing. Plus, what about other free agents? The Patriots will never have a good pass rush as long as Wilfork is one of the guys on the line. They will have to blitz and dedicate linebackers to the cause in order to get sacks and that will leave them susceptible in the passing game.
Vince Wilfork is a great player. He works hard and played a ton of snaps for the Patriots coming off the Achilles injury. He’s a class act and I wouldn’t be mad if the Patriots can make it work in other ways while keeping him. But if it comes down to signing any of the aforementioned players or keeping Wilfork, I’m taking Revis, McCourty and Vereen.