|Vince Wilfork announces on Twitter Patriots won’t pick up his option, becomes free agent||03.05.15 at 9:09 am ET|
With the league year set to get underway next week, the Patriots needed to find ways to get under the salary cap. The first domino has fallen, as Vince Wilfork announced on Twitter Thursday morning the Patriots won’t pick up his option for 2015.
The move frees up $8.1 million for the Patriots. Last offseason Wilfork signed a three-year, $23 million contract with New England.
The full statement on Twitter read: I want to take the time just to let everyone know that I was informed on Tuesday that the patriots will not be picking up my option. I’m in a good place I have a great relationship with the Patriots organization. Please know how blessed my family and I have been to be able to play 11 years in New England for an amazing organization. The love you guys as fans have shown me have been my inspiration year in and year out … Your messages your stories your conversations and support always touch my heart. New England has been and always will be my home. I have played 11 years for the greatest head coach ever! I’ve played next to Men that I now have as brothers for a life time, a first class organization. I came back from a season ending injury when most doubted me and then won the super bowl in my come back year … New England has been great to me and my family … Can I still play football? Hell yea! do I still love football? Hell yea! One thing is for sure is I will always be a fixture in New England forever …. This will always be my home !! I won a Super Bowl my rookie year I won on this year !! 11 years with one organization 11 years married to the love of my life 3 beautiful healthy kids … One major injury lots of gas still left in the tank … All I can say is I am blessed. Im thankful Im grateful … I will take my time think things though take into consideration many things but mainly my family and see where life goes from there … But regardless remember I will always remain a New Englander a Patriot forever
The defensive tackle, 33 years old, is now a free agent, having played all 11 seasons in the NFL with the Patriots. Coming off a season-ending Achilles injury in 2013, Wilfork had a great bounce back season, playing in 74 percent of the defensive snaps this season, finishing with 47 tackles in the regular season and six in the postseason.
Wilfork can now sign with another team, sign a new contract with the Patriots, or even retire.
|Some history behind Patriots and franchise tag||03.02.15 at 1:30 pm ET|
A few notes as we all wait for the 4 p.m. deadline on the franchise tag:
On four of the eight occasions the Patriots hit someone with the franchise tag, they did it on the last day of the window: Wes Welker (2012), Adam Vinatieri (2005), Tebucky Jones (2003) and Vinatieri (2002). The Welker announcement came just prior to the deadline.
Three of the eight tags ultimately led to contract extensions with the Patriots: Logan Mankins (2011), Vince Wilfork (2010) and Vinatieri (2002). Wilfork’s offseason came at the end of the tumultuous few months for the defensive lineman, who was strongly against the idea of being tagged. He eventually acquiesced, and that set the stage for a new five-year deal that made him the highest-paid nose tackle in the league.
In addition, on three occasions, a player played that year under the franchise tag, and then departed as a free agent the following year: Welker (2012), Asante Samuel (2007) and Vinatieri (2005). In retrospect, it was clear that few players wanted to get out of town faster than Samuel. He held out for most of the offseason and into the summer, eventually signing his tender on Aug, 27. He left as a free agent the following offseason – he was in Philly at a press conference announcing his signing with the Eagles less than 18 hours following the start of free agency the next year.
And two players were tagged and then traded: Matt Cassel (2009) to the Chiefs and Jones (2003) to the Saints. While a few different scenarios could play out between now and the end of the offseason if one of the Patriots is tagged between now and the deadline, this is probably not one of them.
|Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Defensive line||02.17.15 at 8:00 am ET|
With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We’ve looked at special teams, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, quarterback, offensive line, safety and cornerback and linebacker. Now, we wrap it up with defensive line:
Depth chart (regular-season stats via coaches film review): Chandler Jones (43 tackles, 6 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, 2 passes defensed), Alan Branch (14 tackles, 2 quarterback hits, 1 pass defensed), Sealver Siliga (27 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hits), Vince Wilfork (47 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, 1 INT, 2 passes defensed), Chris Jones (27 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 quarterback hits), Rob Ninkovich (56 tackles, 8 sacks, 16 quarterback hits, 1 INT, 2 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery), Joe Vellano (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit), Zach Moore (4 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery), Michael Buchanan (1 tackle), Dominique Easley (9 tackles, 1 sack, 3 quarterback hits) and Akeem Ayers (15 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, 1 INT, 1 pass defensed). Jake Bequette remains on the practice squad.
Overview: The heart of the New England defense, the line was able to hold strong after a sluggish start and really one together nicely as the year developed and into the playoffs. At the center of it all was a resurgent Wilfork. The veteran had to knock a little rust off at the start of the season, but he was a huge part of the defensive success enjoyed by the Patriots over the course of the 2014 season, not only from an on-field perspective but as a leader and mentor to a group of younger defensive linemen. Along the interior, Wilfork was ably backed by youngsters Siliga and Jones, who returned to their roles as mostly complementary players.
On the edge, Ninkovich and Chandler Jones weren’t an overwhelming pass rush duo, but Ninkovich became the first member of the Pats to register three straight seasons of at least eight sacks since Hall of Famer Andre Tippett. Jones struggled with a hip injury and missed roughly two full months in the middle of the year, but Ayers — acquired from Tennessee in October — was able to provide relief as a pass rusher while holding up relatively well against the run. And Branch, who was plucked off the street in October, managed to find a role as a run-stopper and steadying part of the rotation up front.
Ultimately, it wasn’t an overwhelming defensive front, but in the spirit of good complementary football, it was more than enough to lift the Patriots over the top: In six of their final 11 games (including the playoffs), the Patriots held opposing teams under 100 yards rushing, and finished ninth in the league in rush defense (104.3 yards per game allowed).
Going forward, one of the offseason storylines worth monitoring will be what happens with Wilfork and his contractual situation. The veteran could be one of several players who might be asked to have his deal restructured in hopes of creating more financial flexibility. At the same time, most of the rest of the key parts are under contract for 2015, including 2014’s first-round selection Dominique Easley, who had recurring knee issues through the year and ended the season on injured reserve. Count on him to be a major part of New England’s defensive plans in 2015.
Best moment: Lots of moments to choose from here, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the work that the defensive front did over the course of the six-game gauntlet against (mostly) division leaders that would come to define the Patriots as the physical bunch they turned out to be. In that series, New England yielded an average of 81 rushing yards per game and just one rushing touchdown.
|If Patriots use franchise tag, why they’re more apt to use on Devin McCourty than Stephen Gostkowski||02.16.15 at 10:31 pm ET|
Monday marked the first day of the NFL’s franchise tag window, where teams can designated one player who is set to be a free agent on their roster the franchise tag.
The most common designation is the non-exclusive franchise tag where the player must be offered a one-year deal based on the average of the non-exclusive franchise numbers at his position over the last five seasons and their percentage of that year’s salary cap or 120 percent of his prior year’s base salary, whichever is greater. If a player does get a non-exclusive franchise tag, they can talk with other teams, but if he signs an offer sheet with another club, his team has five days to match the offer. If the offer is not matched, his team will receive two first-round picks as compensation from the signing team.
The two-week window ends March 2, right before the start of free agency.
The Patriots have not used the tag since 2012, when New England franchised Wes Welker, only to see him depart via free agency the following offseason. Prior to Welker, the team used it on Vince Wilfork in 2010 and Logan Mankins in 2011 and then eventually settled to contract extensions, which could be the case again this year (For a complete look at the Patriots’ history with the franchise tag, check out Chris Price’s Sunday Notes from this week).
While the Patriots have used the franchise tag on a kicker before (Adam Vinatieri), it doesn’t seem to make much sense this time around. Gostkowski just wrapped up a five-year, $15,759,000 contract where he made just over $3 million a year. According to NFL Media’s Albert Breer, the value of the franchise tag for a kicker for 2015 would be $4.12 million. The highest paid kicker in the NFL is currently Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski, making an average of $3.75 million a year.
Gostkowski, who turned 31 during Super Bowl week has emerged as one of the best kickers in the game (finishing second in the NFL in field goal percentage this past year), and will seemingly want to be the highest paid kicker in the game. With plenty of good seasons left in him, why not make him the highest paid kicker in the game (above $3.75 million a year), and sign him to a multi-year extension? There’s no need to mess around with the franchise tag, especially when the value is over $4 million. So by not using it on Gostkowski and making him the highest paid kicker in the game, New England would actually likely save themselves money.
From this viewpoint, McCourty is the more likely to be designated the tag. He’s finished his rookie contract, and could not be at a better point in his career. After being moved from cornerback to safety, he’s become one of the better safeties in the game and it doesn’t hurt he’s coming off a Super Bowl win. From a New England perspective, he seems to enjoy being a member of the Patriots and is well-respected in the locker room, as well as by coach Bill Belichick.
|Bianca Wilfork shows love for Patriots fans, even in the Bahamas||02.08.15 at 5:44 pm ET|
Maybe it was the joyous hangover from the Super Bowl victory or maybe it was just wanting to thank a fan but Bianca Wilfork couldn’t resist making the day of a particular Patriots fan on Sunday while she and her two-time Super Bowl-winning husband were vacationing in the Bahamas.
Bianca spotted a Patriots fan wearing her husband’s No. 75 in a blue home jersey Sunday. She and Vince walked up to the balcony where the man and two others were standing, minding their own business.
Bianca pipes up, “You know whose jersey you’re wearing?” After a smile and polite response, Bianca chimes, “His!” and points to her husband.
The fan shook Vince’s hands and jokes, “Almost your size.”
The whole moment was captured on Bianca’s Instagram account on video and broadcast to the world.
|Can Seahawks gain logistical edge because Super Bowl is in NFC West stadium?||01.29.15 at 5:25 pm ET|
CHANDLER, Ariz. — Super Bowl XLIX will mark the first game at University of Phoenix Stadium for several members of the Patriots — it’s the first game for the franchise at the venue since Super Bowl XLII, seven years ago On the flip side, because it’s the home of the Cardinals, the Seahawks make an annual visit to the facility, as they’re NFC West rivals with Arizona.
Does that mean the Seahawks have an advantage because they might be more familiar with the surroundings? Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola — who played in the building every year for four seasons when he was with the Rams — said that it’s “something [he’s] thought about.”
“I got real used to coming here and playing,” Amendola said Thursday. “I talked to some of my teammates that haven’t been here, haven’t played here. I don’t think that’s an issue just because the fields are the same size, really. This stadium kind of resembles Wembley Stadium. It’s a bigger stadium, indoors. It’s going to be good conditions with the grass, with the roof, with whatever it may be. But I think we’ll be all right.”
“We’ll treat it just like any other away game,” said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. “Being able to go see the clocks — where the play-clock is, scoreboards, you name it. And I think guys will take advantage of that. Especially being the Super Bowl, I think you have a lot more guys out there just seeing the whole setup of the Super Bowl, which they should so they won’t get blindsided when they take the field for the first time.”
“We deal with that every year — we go to stadiums that we don’t play at very often all the time,” said kicker Stephen Gostkowski. “There are only a few stadiums we play at every year. You just show up, you find out the conditions that day, and you kick. We practice all the time in so many different conditions. There are only so many different conditions that you can get — weather, turf and wind. No one gets more different weathers and climates and field conditions than we do in New England. It’s hot, it’s cold, it’s windy. You get it all, so you just deal with it. That’s why we’re professionals. We deal with that stuff and I really don’t think too much about it. I have a plan going in and go for it.”
|Practice makes perfect: Patriots look to avoid same problems that haunted 2007 team with good week of workouts||at 2:32 pm ET|
CHANDLER, Ariz. — One of the things that ended up derailing the 2007 Patriots from finishing the season with a Super Bowl title was the fact that, according to several players on that team, they had a miserable week of practice in Arizona in the days leading up to their title game against the Giants.
And while the 2014 Patriots still have a few practice sessions remaining over the course of the week, they all indicated Thursday morning that their first run-through at the Arizona Cardinals‘ facility on Wednesday was a productive practice session for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact they didn’t have to bundle up to guard against the New England cold.
“It was great not to have to wear two hoodies, sweatpants, thermal tights and all that,” said wide receiver Brandon LaFell. “It felt good to go out there and be in your uniform without all those extra layers. It felt like a day at training camp, really.”
“It was a great practice, honestly,” said wide receiver Danny Amendola. “To be out in this weather and run around and throw the ball. You don’t have to wear too many layers. It was fun.”
“That’s exactly what I was about to say,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said with a smile when informed of Amendola and LaFell’s assessment of the conditions. “It felt good to be out and running around. We had a couple of days off. It felt good to get back out there. Everybody moved well and everybody looked like they were doing pretty well. It was just good to finally get a real sweat going again instead of having to wear eight layers of clothing. It felt good to be back out there.”
Defensive lineman Wilfork is one of a handful of players who were part of that 2007 team that say its dream die in the desert at the hands of the Giants. He’s still reticent to talk about that defeat — “I don’t think about it,” when he was asked about it on Thursday morning — but it sounds like he believes the team is in a better place when it comes to practice and focus in the days leading up to the game.
“It’s good. I’m very happy with where the focus is,” he said. “I’m very happy with where we sit right now as a team. I think we’re ready. We have a couple more days to be sure and sharpen up few things, but for the most part, I think we’ve gotten everything we want to do done. The guys are really excited to play, and hopefully, it’ll show on Sunday.”
While the Patriots will hold two more practices this week — sessions on Thursday and Friday before a final walkthrough on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium — it’s more about fine-tuning at this point.
“We’re pretty much recapping at this point — we put in some red zone and some of the stuff we did last week,” LaFell said. “We’re just taking the final steps now toward where we need to be on Sunday.”
“I feel like that’s the biggest part of execution is kind of getting all the knots out now,” Hightower said. “Come Sunday, everyone knows the game plan. Everybody knows their checks. Everyone knows the game plan. They know their checks. And everybody is playing two or three steps faster than what they might be used to. But these next couple of practices will be key for us.”