Thousands of New England fans all exhaled with relief at the same exact moment, as Vince Wilfork reached an agreement with the Patriots this afternoon to restructure his contract. The deal is essentially a 1-year deal for $8 mil ($3 mil guaranteed) with an option for two additional seasons, saving the team $3.6 million on this year’s cap.
Here are three dominoes that fell this afternoon:
- We all win, every one of us
Oh, the natural beauty of compromise. The ugly reports of the rift between the team and Wilfork (intensified with the uber-dramatic stories of Wilfork ripping his name tag off his locker in fury) were hurting everyone in the process. The Patriots’ front office came across as cold hearted penny pinchers, ignoring a decade’s worth of excellence in the name of cap space. Wilfork came across as overly proud and unrealistic about his market value, especially off of last year’s injury and his increasing age. And we Patriots fans showed our ugly side, as many immediately turned on the overwhelming fan favorite, thousands of tweets declaring “If he wants to go, let him go, he doesn’t deserve to stay.” All parties were half-right, and half-wrong, but it was all-ugly.
And now all is healed. This deal, coupled with Bob Kraft’s comments at the meetings this past week, show that the New England Patriots are a team that wants to take care of their own. Vince Wilfork, albeit taking a pay cut, gets to be another Patriots great who retired with the team, along with Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, Matt Light, Kevin Faulk, and, eventually, Tom Brady. And we can go back to wholeheartedly loving one of the easiest-to-love players in the National Football League.
They call that a win-win-win.
2. The Patriots get some breathing room
We don’t have all of the contract details just yet, but this year’s cap relief does help things a lot. There’s a bit more room to pick up a few small pieces in free agency, perhaps a vet or two looking for one more Super Bowl hurrah. Also, with Wilfork’s status now set in stone, the Patriots can get moving on extensions for Devin McCourty, Nate Solder, and Stephen Gostkowski. Also, the team can now make a judgment call on Dan Connolly, who seems prime for contract restructuring. It will also allow the team to sign all of their draft picks without worry. Speaking of which…
3. The Draft gets sooooo much more fun!
Because I’m an NFL draft junkie, this is my favorite development. In fact, let’s break this domino down a bit.
3a: The Irish Chocolate Question
I still have Louis Nix at the top of my big board (at least for players who might be around at 29), but the distance between him and the players below him gets a lot shorter. Unless Wilfork and Tommy Kelly discover the fountain of youth on a long hike in the Berkshires, the team could still do with a blue-chipper at that position for the future. Nix would be perfect because a) he could have a season or two to learn from the best in the business but b) could easily start in a pinch. But the team no longer needs to trade up for him, but can instead play….
3b: The BPA Game!
That’s “Best Player Available”, which makes the Draft so much more fun to watch, though a lot more difficult to predict. Like I said above, I’d have Nix above most players in that 20-30 range, but there are oodles of intriguing options in that range. Kony Ealy as a situational DE/OLB, terrorizing QBs? Calvin Pryor screaming across the field to lay the hammer on unsuspecting running backs? Allen Robinson turning into Anquan Boldin 2.0? Ryan Shazier exploding off the edge? All are in the realm of possibility. I can’t freakin’ wait for Draft Day, even if…
3c: The chances of Belichick trading down increases exponentially
Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s no fun when your team doesn’t get a pick on Day 1. But if there was ever a year to have multiple Day 2 picks, this is it. Many of the draft class’ best interior lineman project as second/third round prospects, like Weston Richburg (my favorite), Xavier Su’a-Filo, David Yankey, Travis Swanson, and Marcus Martin. Rather than pinning their hopes on Eric Ebron falling, the team can focus on taking one of the next four (Amaro, ASJ, Niklas, Fiedorowicz) on Day 2 at better value. And this year has uncharacteristically deep positional groups, with prime players in that 2-3 round range at WR (Davante Adams, Jordan Matthews, Jarvis Landry, Martavis Bryant), CB (Jaylen Watkins, Pierre Desir, SJB, Keith McGill), and versatile DE (Scott Crichton, Trent Murphy, Kareem Martin, Will Clarke).
Since there isn’t a single glaring team need, the Patriots can trade back and add crucial depth across the board. And it all started with the Patriots bringing back a team captain, beloved player, and heart of their defense into the fold.
This offseason has been the best.
With further information coming out on the deal, be sure to check isportsweb for more up-to-date analysis on the Patriots and your other favorite teams. And (obviously) I’ll be pumping out more mock drafts in the next month, including one next week!
You can follow me on twitter @isportspeters and keep sending me thoughts/questions/etc. at firstname.lastname@example.org! Especially suggestions for who the Patriots should draft, and if you send me game tape, you will be precious in my sight.