Friday, March 14, 2014

Money may send Vince Wilfork away

The 32-year-old defensive tackle asked for his release after apparently feeling spurned by recent contract discussions, according to the NFL Network. When reached yesterday, Wilfork’s agent, Kennard McGuire, had no comment.

As surprising as it may be, the signs existed of an unhappy ending with Wilfork’s $11.6 million cap hit in 2014. Financially, the Patriots would save $8 million against the cap by granting Wilfork’s request, so the business side of it works in the team’s favor.

The final season of Wilfork’s five-year, $40 million contract included $7.5 million in base salary, a $400,000 workout bonus and $200,000 weight bonus, plus the prorated portion of his $18 million signing bonus, accounting for $3.6 million in dead money.

So, the Pats didn’t want Wilfork to account for an $11.6 million cap hit a year after tearing his Achilles, and made their attempt to tweak that margin. Because Wilfork fought so hard in 2010 for his contract, the thought of taking a pay cut after 10 years of service was likely nauseating.

It’s possible the Pats offered an extension to Wilfork to spread out the cap hit to future years, but the high probability of a team-friendly offer appeared to irk him, which became evident with yesterday’s news of his asking to be released.

Wilfork is now betting on himself. In terms of actual cash, he would have made a minimum of $7.5 million in salary in 2014, and if he’s healthy enough after surgery, he would have earned the extra $600,000 with good attendance during the team’s nine-week offseason workout program.

In terms of average annual value, defensive tackle Paul Soliai set the market this offseason by earning $6.6 million per season in his five-year, $33 million deal with the Falcons, and Wilfork’s situation isn’t conducive to that type of deal. So, it’s clear he’s going to take less money by playing elsewhere in 2014, but Wilfork is likely taking the long-term view.

If he signs a one-year, prove-it deal, Wilfork could cash in next offseason with a two- or three-year contract that could ultimately net more money than he believes he’d receive immediately with the Pats. Considering Wilfork was a first-time first-team All-Pro in his last full season before the injury, it’s understandable why he’d feel confident in himself.

Pride might also be in play.

There’s no doubt the Patriots broke from their traditional philosophy Wednesday night by signing cornerback Darrelle Revis and making him the highest-paid player on the defense, as well as the second highest-paid player in the locker room.

Wilfork might shake his head and wonder why the big deal happened so quickly with Revis, who signed five hours after getting cut by the Buccaneers, and it’s been so difficult for him to get his own money, plus others who had come before him.

That’s just a theory.

However, the combination of Wilfork’s business sense and the timing of his request make it intriguing to connect the dots.

With so much in play from each side, there are positives for Wilfork and the Patriots to stand their ground, even if that results in a divorce.

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