Mailbag: Vince Wilfork, Johnny Football, and free agency


This past week, the Patriots restructured the ever-popular defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s contract. They also re-signed a big contributor on the other side of the trench: center Ryan Wendell. What have the front offices most recent moves done to the Patriots’ on-field product, and what have they done to the Pats’ cap space?

Restructuring Wilfork’s deal is huge. Now that he’s officially back on board in New England, are the team’s concerns on the interior defensive line alleviated? –Graham from New Bedford, MA

Agreed. Restructuring Vince Wilfork’s contract is huge, as he is now sure to be in a Pats uniform in 2014 (and likely for the remainder of his career). As far as the team’s concerns at defensive tackle go, that’s a really tough question. Let’s take a look at who the Pats currently have under contract:

Armond Armstead, 23
Chris Jones, 23
Tommy Kelly, 33
Sealver Siliga, 23
Joe Vellano, 25
Vince Wilfork, 32

If Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly are able to return from season-ending injuries, they could still be one of the most lethal one-two punches at defensive tackle in the NFL. However, there are questions there regarding age, health, and rehabilitation. On the other end of the spectrum they have Jones, Siliga, and Vellano. All three of the young guns showed signs of promise last season, but none of them project to be a full-time starter in an ideal world. Lastly, Armstead is an entirely separate case. He has loads of potential, but has yet to play an NFL snap due to a heart condition (which left him undrafted) and a mysterious infection (which kept him off the field for all of 2013).

In the end, this group could end up being well above average. I still think it would be wise for the Pats to draft an insurance policy in case one or more of the question marks don’t pan out.

It’s great to have big Vince back on the squad. Obviously a fan favorite and it would’ve killed me to see him go. That being said, what can we expect from the big man in 2014? Is he going to be back to his old self? –Kip from Bridgeport, CT

In the past Wilfork has been both durable and consistent, which leads me to believe he can come back and still play at a high level. His age tells a different story. We were already starting to see signs of regression the past couple seasons, and the injury won’t help. My best guess is that as long as rehab goes well, Wilfork will still be a dominant run-stopper when he’s on the field. However, he will probably need to be subbed with a lot more frequency.

What an offseason it’s been in New England. Has to be the best I can remember. The question now is are they done making a splash in free agency or is there still room for another big move? –Kelly from Vancouver

There is still some room for the Pats to make a play in the free agent market before or after the draft. According to the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, the Pats still have about $7.8 million in cap space.

According to, the Patriots will need to set aside about $1.6 million so that they can sign their 2014 draft picks. That leaves roughly $6.2 million for the team to play around with in the free agent market. That’s enough to for a few complimentary pieces, or one major impact player. We’ll have to wait and see.

What’s going on with the Pats meeting with Johnny Football? Any chance he ends up in New England? –Chris from Portland, ME

No. Johnny Manziel is projected to get drafted in the top five picks by most experts. If not there, probably in the top ten. The Patriots would probably have to trade their entire arsenal of draft picks to get up in that range, a la New Orleans trading up for Ricky Williams in 1999. I just don’t see it happening, despite Manziel’s visit with the franchise today.

Thanks to everyone for the emails. Tweet all your Patriots-related questions, comments, and stories to @cover32_NE or @TC_Howard. You can also email questions to

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