The Patriots have some major contributors hitting free agency this year, be it restricted or unrestricted free agency. Kevin Faulk, Logan Mankins, Stephen Gostkowski, Leigh Bodden, and of course, Vince Wilfork are among the bigger names hitting the free agent market. Some of their futures are hanging in “No Man’s Land” because of the CBA uncertainty, though NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says that an uncapped year is pretty much a done deal. What that means for Mankins and Gostkowski is that they will not be unrestricted free agents but restricted free agents. The Pats will likely tender them the high tender, meaning other teams wanting to sign them will have to give up 1st and 3rd round draft picks. That virtually locks them in, and the Pats have the right to match any offer they get in free agency. Hopefully, both Mankins and Gostkowski will be locked up long-term by the team and this will not be an issue.
Leading up to the Pro Bowl, things seemed to be getting tense with Vince Wilfork because nothing has been discussed since the end of the season with the team in terms of a new deal. However, the Patriots do not seem to be discussing contracts with any of their soon-to-be free agents. Locker room leader, longest-tenured Patriot and the ever reliable Kevin Faulk has yet to hear anything from the Pats, though he is intending to remain with the team. That is somewhat comforting because that likely means they’re not just shutting out Vince Wilfork but waiting to see how the CBA plays out before starting contract negotiations. If they had talked with Faulk or others after the season but not Wilfork (or Mankins for that matter), then that would not be a good sign that they would be returning to the team. It definitely seems in this instance that “no news is good news.” I would anticipate that as the CBA situation becomes clearer towards the end of February (free agency starts March 5), talks will be starting up with players like the ones mentioned above so they do not hit the free market.
This is the year, should we see an uncapped year, to lock up key players to long-term deals and front load those deals so that they will not hurt the team if (when) the cap comes back. It’s time for Mr. Kraft to open up his pocketbook, man-purse, big wallet (George Costanza reference there), whatever it is he has, and pay the players they always talk about as being “Patriot-type” players. If they let guys like Mankins and Wilfork walk I guarantee fans will be extremely angry with the organization. How that would manifest itself only time will tell. Hopefully it doesn’t get to that point.