Yesterday opened up the tagging season for franchise players in the NFL, and it came and went without the Patriots applying the franchise tag to Vince Wilfork for the time being. This is good news for Pats fans and Vince Wilfork. It demonstrates that both sides are trying to get a deal done. Had the tag been applied that early on, it would be a clear sign that they’re nowhere close to a deal and one would be unlikely. Last year, the Patriots knew that they were going to lose Matt Cassel, and tagged him very early in order to begin working on a trade. About a month ago, ESPN Boston columnist Mike Reiss put together a contract that he felt worked for both sides, and it sounded pretty good. However, I think that it was a little too low on the dollar side for Wilfork, especially when he already referred to the $7 million franchise tag amount as “OK.” So I put the general manager hat on and gave it a whirl on what I thought a “fair” deal should be. Personally, Reiss’ deal is more than fair but unfortunately it’s not rich enough for Big Vince.
Total Worth: $56 million
Total Length: 5 years
Guarantees and Bonuses: $35 million
Year by Year Structure
Year 1: $9 million salary, $9 million signing bonus, all guaranteed. Total = $18 million
Year 2: $9 million salary, $2 million bonus, all guaranteed. Total = $11 million
Year 3: $8 million salary, $6 million of which is guaranteed. Total = $8 million
Year 4: $7 million salary
Year 5: $3 million roster bonus, $9 million salary. Total = $12 million
How I Put It Together
I front-loaded most of the guaranteed money to the first year, being that it will be uncapped. I almost thought about putting the whole $20 million bonus into the first year due to uncapped year, but decided to spread it out somewhat. The first three seasons are all above the franchise tag amount of $7 million, which should make Vince happy. The most important part, the guarantees and bonuses, are also front-loaded in the contract so that Wilfork can have the security that he desires. The first three years, which should also be his most productive years taking how players age in to account, are the richest and essentially total $37 million. I guaranteed only $6 million of Year 3 as a “just in case” protection for the Pats, foreseeing an eventual return of the salary cap. Year 5 is essentially a “phony” year, something that many NFL contracts have. If Vince is still playing at a high level and the number works in their cap, the Pats can pay him the $3 mill roster bonus and $9 mill salary. However, the more likely option, is that they choose not to pay the roster bonus which releases Wilfork, or they work on a new contract extension. The purpose of the phantom 5th year is to make the overall contract look better to the player and his agent, which most players are comfortable with, even though they probably will never see it.
So essentially, the contract is a 4 year, $44 mill deal that, as long as he plays it out, stacks up favorably to other top tier defensive players. Other contracts with huge numbers (See Albert Haynesworth) are either completely ridiculous or are completely phony and the player will never sniff that total contract amount. This deal, while having the phantom year, overall is something the player can expect to see as long as he plays. As part of the deal, I would also include language that protects the Patriots if Wilfork’s weight becomes an issue. They can make part of the salaries be weight/workout bonuses to ensure he will be in shape in order to receive that salary figure.
I think it’s a fair deal. It makes Wilfork a rich man without giving him a contract that would handicap the team from pursuing other players. It also sends a message to the locker room and to potential free agents that the Patriots do take care of their players. So what do you think?