As the days pass in New England, the more likely it appears defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has played his last game for the Patriots. This is especially true when it comes to the rumors of the team wanting Big Vince to just take a pay cut and not restructure his deal, leading to an upset Wilfork removing his belongings (including the name plate from his locker) last week. While the team holds out on his request to be released, the Patriots are wasting time in getting pieces that can help out the team in free agency.
Looking across various sources, including Mel Kiper and Todd McShay of ESPN have signs pointing towards New England selecting a defensive tackle, with or without Vince Wilfork in the fold come training camp this summer. Being able to have a young athletic tackle playing beside Tommy Kelly isn’t the worst case scenario if it allows other areas to be addressed now rather than later in the draft.
1. DE/OLB Shaun Phillips
The thinning free agent market at defensive end is getting paper-thin with Jared Allen signing a 4-year, $32 million deal with Chicago Tuesday. Phillips isn’t a “stud” like Allen, but his productive season in Denver last year showed there’s still gas left in his tank. He is 32, but his sack totals (9.5, 10.0) in the last two seasons have shown the injury-plagued 3.5 sack season in 2011 was a fluke. His ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker fits in well with a Belichick scheme and brings something the Patriots need at linebacker, someone who can generate consistent quarterback pressure.
His play would open up chances for both Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich up front and avoid those bothersome double teams that slow down Jones on occasion. It’d also give linebackers Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins increased freedom to roam the field, bringing added pressure in certain situations.