The Patriots spent the first day of free agency holding together their house, re-signing three key players. The first deal of the day came when the Patriots re-signed their defensive sack leader, Tully Banta-Cain. Banta-Cain signed a three-year deal worth $4.5 mill/year or as much as $6 mill/year if certain escalators are reached. The team still needs to find more pass rushers if they want to be more successful next year, but they at least have one that they know can produce in their system. Then came the big deal.
After weeks, even months really, of speculation and worrying amongst the New England faithful, the Patriots signed their franchise NT Vince Wilfork. The deal makes Wilfork the richest nose tackle in NFL history. The contract is reportedly for 6 years and a total of $40 mill, with an $18 mill signing bonus and $25 mill in guarantees. Needless to say, Vince Wilfork is one happy man and Patriots fans are relieved. By all accounts, this deal sends a message out to the locker room that if you play at a high level and go about things the right way, you can receive what you deserve when your time comes. Albert Breer mentions this and three other impacts of the Wilfork deal on the Boston Globe’s Patriots blog. But the Patriots didn’t stop there.
They also reached a two-year agreement with guard Stephen Neal, keeping their offensive line intact for next year. Thursday they tendered Logan Mankins at the highest level (first- and third-round pick compensation) and will likely be trying to lock him up long-term. The Patriots are also active in the Leigh Bodden sweepstakes and are trying to keep him in New England. According to Bodden’s agent Alvin Keels, “New England is definitely in the mix.” Let’s hope they can keep Bodden to continue shoring up the defense.
No word yet on new players joining the team, though they did put in an offer on Julius Peppers before he signed with Chicago and were reportedly in the Anquan Boldin mix until he was traded to Baltimore. Despite not bringing in any one new yet, the Patriots have been active (at least reportedly). I feel they will continue to try and keep their key free agents, like Bodden and Kevin Faulk, before moving to see what free agents are still available.