It was first reported by NFL Network, citing sources, that New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has asked the team to release him. Wilfork has been with New England for 10 seasons after they selected him in the first round of the 2004 draft. Overall Wilfork has been very productive and has been a fan favorite in New England. Many Patriots fans are upset that it now seems almost inevitable that Wilfork will be in a different uniform for the 2014 season. I have one word to those people.
The Patriots have managed injuries very well in the past (like last season when a plethora of players went down, including Wilfork who played only four games before tearing his Achilles) and the Patriots will be just as good at adjusting to no longer having Wilfork.
Wilfork is entering the final year of his current contract and is due to earn a base salary of $7.5 million and count $11.6 million against the cap. It has been reported that the Patriots have spoken with Wilfork about restructuring his contract, but he is unwilling to do so.
Yes, Wilfork is a premier run-stopper in the NFL when he is healthy, but he will turn 33 in November and is a run-stuffer of his age and size (6-foot-2, 325-pounds) who is coming back from an Achilles tear worth the cap hit the Patriots will take if Wilfork remains on their roster? Definitely not. In addition to Wilfork’s age and uncertainty of how he’ll come back from the Achilles tear is the fact that the NFL has become a passing league. Wilfork is unbelievable at clogging up the middle and making it very difficult for opposing teams to run the ball effectively, but the Patriots should be focused on improving their secondary (signing Darrelle Revis was an enormous acquisition), receiving corps and their pass rush.
No one who follows the Patriots or really the NFL should be surprised if Wilfork is released. It’s what the Patriots do. The Patriots decide what a player’s value is to the team and they very rarely overpay a player. If Wilfork is released he won’t be the first Patriot to be unceremoniously released/traded (Lawyer Milloy, Willie McGinest and Richard Seymour are examples of others) and he won’t be the last either. It’s the “Patriot Way.” It may sound cold, but the NFL is a business and you can’t argue with results. The Patriots have been one of the most successful NFL franchises over the last decade and a half. Whatever “formula” the Patriots use to make decisions apparently works.
Patriots fans should not harbor any ill will towards Wilfork. He simply wants to get paid what he feels he is worth, even if the Patriots will most likely disagree on what his value is. Patriots fans should instead wish the best for Wilfork if he is indeed released and joins another team, as long as the Patriots are not playing Wilfork’s new team.
Patriots fans should not worry about whether or not Wilfork will be released. The Patriots should address their other needs — which they probably will — and they will be just fine next season.