The New England Patriots’ decision to use a $14.65 million franchise tag on quarterback Matt Cassel has left nose guard Vince Wilfork wondering about his future, according to the Boston Globe.
Scheduled to be a free agent in 2010 along with a whopping 21 other Patriots, including several starters, Wilfork is entering the final year of his six-year rookie contract and hasn’t heard from team officials.
“The ball is not in my court right now,” Wilfork said. “Nothing has happened. No progress has been made. I thought maybe there would be some sort of move forward, but everything is at a standstill.
“I’m sure they’ll do whatever they have to do. I have that last year, and I’m preparing to play and play well. It’s not going to change me. But they know the longer it takes the more it costs.”
Wilfork’s contract averages just $1.5 million per year, well below the excess of $5 million that fellow standout nose guards Casey Hampton and Kris Jenkins made last year. He’s scheduled to earn an $800,000 base salary in 2009.
Complicating the Patriots’ salary cap situation is the fact that they’re devoting $29.27 million in salary-cap room toward Cassel and Tom Brady.
Plus, per the Globe, the Patriots have $10.5 million in cap space devoted to wide receiver Randy Moss, $9.79 million to defensive end Richard Seymour, linebacker Adalius Thomas’ $6.4 million and the quarterbacks’ cap impact and it’s roughly $56 million or nearly half the salary cap spent on five players.
And the Patriots’ 2010 free agent class will be extremely hard to retain.
It’s a distinguished group that includes, in addition to Wilfork, offensive guards Logan Mankins and Stephen Neal, Seymour and Jarvis Green, tight ends Benjamin Watson and David Thomas, linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel, running back Kevin Faulk, placekicker Stephen Gostkowski, and cornerback Ellis Hobbs.
Obviously, the Patriots’ contract negotiators have a lot of work to do. And trading Cassel at some point would definitely help alleviate the situation.
It’s worth noting that teams that draft extremely well like the Patriots wind up in this situation from time to time, but this is a daunting task.
Of course, Wilfork still wants what he wants: to get paid.
“I hope whatever they have going on gets cleared up sooner rather than later,” Wilfork said. “I’m looking forward to a new deal, and I’m looking forward to the 2009 season. We have unfinished business as a team, and myself, I have unfinished business as an individual.
“But you know me, I’m going to play hard regardless of the situation. One thing they don’t have to worry about is me preparing hard, working hard and playing my tail off, with or without a contract.”
Wilfork said he doesn’t begrudge Cassel his huge payday. 
“I’m happy for Cass,” he said. “He proved a lot of critics wrong.”


  1. The weakness of every story about an underpaid player who’s bound to a rookie-contract and compared to the Casey Hampton’s and Kris Jenkins’s of the NFL is that the Casey Hampton’s and Kris Jenkins’s were once underpaid with rookie contracts.
    And Wilford makes a great point. That is, “the longer it takes the more it costs.”
    This said, if the Patriots were to give Wilford a new contract today, to wouldn’t measure up to a contract given to someone next year. It’s a never process.
    Unfortunately, Wilford, like all other star players, gain the advantage in their final contract when age and injuries slow them down or lead to their release.

  2. What the Patriots do with Cassel will depend on Brady’s health. If Brady is well enough to start next season, Cassel will be traded. If Brady is progressing slower than anticipated or hoped, the Pats will have no choice but to retain Cassel into the season.
    Within a few months, but probably not before the draft, we’ll know how it will play out. The Pats would like to be able to reach a decision before this year’s draft, but they might not be that fortunate.

  3. When the Patriots trade Cassel at the draft, the entire 14.65 comes off the books and the Patriots will begin to negotiate long term deals with other players.
    Dont forget: If the Vikings choose to give up 2 firsts to the Patriots – the Patriots can not stop them due to the use of poison pills aka Cassel getting 3 billion dollars if he starts 3 games in New England.

  4. Ummmmm…I think NE will sign one of 3 top nose tackles in NFL. That guy is too good, a nightmare for centers.

  5. This “complication” only occurs if the Patriots neither trade Cassel nor negotiate a long term deal with him. As one of those two possibilities will surely happen, this is a non-story. Not to mention the fact that some of the 2010 free agents probably will be retired by that time (Bruschi, maybe Vrabel and Faulk.)

  6. It’s entirely a moot point. All indication are that Brady is coming back healthy this year – so I agree with Norseman when he says that the Vikings have a lot of cap space… and an undesirable ineptitude at the quarterback position. A few of these guys you mentioned in the article or close to retiring. Bruschi should be done after this season… if not sooner. Vrabel is fairly close to retiring. I think if the choice comes between Seymour and Wilfork, the Patriots would have to pick Wilfork. The rest of these guys are either easily resignable or may get their walking papers, who knows. I can forsee them franchising Gostkowski, if need be.

  7. This would be a bigger story if those players were free agents this year. There will be more cap room in 2010 and the Brady/Cassel situation will be resolved.
    And they won’t be able to keep everyone. No team ever can. Moving on….

  8. 22 free agents next year?! That’s pretty much every starter on both sides of the ball. Holy crap.
    If the CBA gets done and 2010 is a capped year, the Patriots could be coming back to the rest of the AFC pack in a big way.

  9. Bruschi, Vrabel and Faulk will be gone by 2010. Maybe Seymour can walk as he is not the player he once was. Some folks wish that Ellis Hobbs would leave anyway. Wilfork must stay, along with Jarvis Green. Mankins must stay on the OL; Neal is probably replaceable. Gostkowski might be the best kicker in the league and you would want to keep him, but if he goes, it isn’t a massive loss — lots of good kickers are out there.

  10. I wouldn’t count on a collapse in Foxborough anytime soon.
    Wilfork will be resigned! Seymour will probably move on. Brusci
    might not make it this year. Harrison status is up in the air.
    Jarvis Green has been an impact player for the Pats
    they’ll resign Green. Mankins too!

  11. A new CBA for 2010 is not going to happen so it’s not going to be an issue. Half of those FAs will become restricted free agents and two franchise tags will be available. They could franchise both Wilfork and Seymour if deals aren’t made.

  12. Cassel better wear some goggles or something. Wilfork sounds like he’s getting ready to do some serious eye-poking…

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