Big Vince Wilfork is unhappy. OK, I understand that he is ready to get his after he finally finishes his ridiculously cheap six year rookie contract. Playing this year at about one-tenth of his free market value, Big Vince is deservedly ready to get his this offseason (note the total lack of usage of cliches such as "Mo' Money" or "Show me the Money"--I am so proud of my restraint).
So what can the Patriots do?
With the NFL labor market so extremely muddled due to the uncertaintly around the capped/uncapped year upcoming, can the Patriots even afford to to sign Wilfork and tie-up a boatload of money? Also, consider that Wilfork has been playing for cheap so long, contributing value so high above his pay scale that even overpaying him, the team breaks even over the length of his new contract. Will there even be a franchise tag in the new NFL of 2011?
Too many questions, and not enough answers for the Patriots to panic and make a brash move. The only way this deal goes through before the season is if Wilfork leaves a lot of money on the table. After the way he's fought in the trenches for the last five years, I think it's safe for Big Vince to cash in.
Here's what else Bill Belichick thinks about at 2am:
Five Major Potential Unrestricted Free Agents at the End of 2010:
1. Big Vince Wilfork (NT): Remember, impact 3-4 nose tackles don't grow on trees.
2. Leigh Bodden (CB): By the end of the Super Bowl XLIV, Patriots fan are going to be clamoring to sign Bodden, who is such a perfect fit for the Bill Belichick defense and should make everyone forget about Asante Samuel. Unfortunately, Bodden is looking to make-up for all the money he lost in Detroit.
3. Ben Watson (TE): Wait a minute, forget about Watson. I've had my fill of this bozo. He has all the tools except he can't catch the ball. Don't be too shocked if Watson gets dinged in training camp and then is released at the final cutdowns after the pre-season.
3 (take two): Kevin Faulk (RB): Faulk, who has inherited the mantle of Mr. Patriot from Troy Brown, has serious competition for third down back in Fred Taylor, especially if Maroney bounces back. If a desperate team throws enough cash at Faulk in an uncapped year, would he consider jumping ship?
4. Stephen Neal (OG): There will be a lot of demand for this mauler on the open market. Oh, and while discussing Neal, has he not progressed to the point where he can be discussed without going into "he was a champion wrestler" and "he never played football in college". Enough already! Neal deserves to stand on his NFL merits as a top guard in the NFL.
5. Richard Seymour (DE): Has Big Sey priced himselft out of NE? How much money would Seymour get from Mangini and the Browns on the open market? Or for that matter, the cash available from the Jets, Ravens, or any other team running a 3-4 defense?
Bonus: Jarvis Green (DE): Where is Jarvis in the team's plans in the future? A so-called third down specialist at DE, I don't recall Green getting close to too many quarterbacks last year. Green's lack of pass rush didn't help the team's problems with third down efficiency on defense.
Five Key Points of Interest This Summer in Foxboro:
- Tom Brady is back: Nuff said. Now bring me the head of Ben Roethlisberger.
- #3 & 4 Receivers: Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis need to draw away safety coverage from Randy Moss, the tight ends, and Wes Welker. Whether they just run fly patterns down the sidelines does not matter, as long as they bring the threat of a deep ball to keep the free safety deep it doesn't matter how many balls they catch. In 07 Dante Stallworth opened up the field for Welker and Moss; In 08 Jabar Gaffney did not.
- How many running backs are too many? Hmm, right now I'll pull out my quote from "Numb" by U2 (from their vastly underrated "Zooropa" album) by the falsetto-voiced Bono behind the Edge's vocals: "Too much is not enough."
- Patrick Pass: AUGH! AUGH! AUGH!
- Bill Likes to Redshirt the Freshmen in their first year at Foxboro University: With Shawn Crable (OLB), Tyrone Wheatley (CB), and Jonathan Wilhite (CB) expected to make contributions this season on defense, there is hope for 2011 with third round picks Brandon Tate (WR) and Tyrone McKenzie (OLB).
2 MINUTE OFFENSE:
Continuing to stay with the Patriots big weakness in 08, the secondary is looking like a huge upgrade in 09. The Patriots have a ton of youth and speed available with their Fab Five in the secondary: Wheatley, Wilhite, and rookie Darius Butler at cornerback; Brandon Merriweather and rookie Patrick Chung at safety. Throw in veterans Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs at cornerback and James Sanders at safety, and this unit got real deep real quick.
Cross that question mark off the list. Something tells me that if Belichick could win a Super Bowl with Otis "My Man" Smith, Hank Poteat, Ty Poole, Earthwind Moreland, and Randall Gay at cornerback, this unit could flourish in 2009-10.OVERTIME:
Five Patriots I Expect to Take the Next Step This Year:
- Brandon Merriweather (S): This is it. The athletic ability of year one, the gradual growth in year two, the breakout year in year three? This kid could be the biggest contributor in the secondary this season.
- David Thomas (TE): Seriously. The former Longhorn has great hands (that is what happens when you have Vince Young throwing the ball all over the state of Texas), and right now the Patriots have some serious competition at tight end. Thomas, if healthy, is potentially a huge asset at TE. Tight end has been the one position that must drive Belichick insane. Two first round picks and multiple free agents later and the position is still a black hole. When Christian Fauria and Mike Vrable were the most productive tight end of the Belichick era, that is a position ripe for the taking.
- Terence Wheatley (CB): He had the skills last year. With health, he should shine.
- Matthew Slater (KR): The son of Jackie has a chance to shine with Ellis Hobbs out of New England and the returner position wide open. Kid, this is what you were drafted for--time to shine.
- Gary Guyton (ILB): The surprise of 2008 sould be able to continue to grow into replacement for Bruschi.
- BONUS: Shawn Crable (OLB): He looked the part in 2008 during the preseason with his incredible wingspan and great speed. He showed the ability to fly around the corner at the QB, and having him drop into coverage allowed him to get to the ball and make plays in space. He was drafted for a reason--this year hopefully the Foxboro faithful see the full package.
POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE:
Three More Potential Unrestricted Free Agents in 2010 (or Restricted Free Agents, depending on the labor agreement):
- Stephen Gostowski (K)
- Nick Kaczur (OT)
- Logan Mankins (OG)