With the NFL owner meetings now underway in Orlando, Patriots fans were highly anticipating owner Robert Kraft or head coach Bill Belichick addressing the situation with defensive tackle and team leader Vince Wilfork, who asked the team for his release shortly after the Patriots landed cornerback Darrelle Revis. Kraft spoke glowingly of Wilfork today in Orlando and seemed genuine in expressing his desire that the big defensive tackle be back with the team in 2014.
“Going back over the last 20 years, we’ve had some pretty special people come through, and he is one of my personal favorites,” Kraft said. “I’m thinking of Tedy Bruschi and Matt Light and Kevin Faulk and Troy Brown. They made their careers with us, and I surely hope Vince will be with us next year.”
This is the first time a member of the Patriots organization has addressed the Wilfork situation since he asked for his release. While Kraft was effusive in his praise for Wilfork, he was also realistic about the team’s salary cap situation and certainly made it seem like the only way Wilfork is going to be in New England in 2014 is if the two sides can come to an agreement on a contract extension that lowers Wilfork’s cap number for the upcoming season.
“He’s making some individual decisions, and for us we have to put a team together of over 50 people and we have a salary cap,” Kraft said. “And in the end it’s about both parties feeling that it’s a good transaction and it’s a win-win, and I think that’s what we’re both shooting for.”
The Patriots would be smart to do everything they can to keep Wilfork in New England in 2014. One of the team’s most serious needs is at defensive tackle and Wilfork is one of the best in the game when healthy. The consensus is that the Patriots need to improve their pass rush in 2014 and losing one of the most disruptive interior linemen in the league is not a step in the right direction.