EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


August 27, 2009

Is walking out an option for Wilfork?

FOXBORO — What happens if Vince Wilfork walks?

The New England Patriots nose tackle might have no other option.

Both Wilfork and his fellow New England Patriots defensive linemate — both with Pro Bowls on their resumes — sit in the the final season of their current contract.

There is a humongous difference here, though, as Seymour, a first-round pick in 2001 has already cashed in once for mega-millions thanks to the Kraft family.

Wilfork, a first-rounder in 2004, has felt the punishing wrath of the NFL's current contract structure.

Coming out of the University of Miami, he was cornered into a six-year deal ... paying him about $18 million over that span. For what Wilfork has brought to the franchise, you're talking pennies on the NFL dollar.

His loyalty and service have not been rewarded yet.

"Pretty frustrating," was how Wilfork described the situation this week. But less than three weeks to the opening nighter with Buffalo, will the backbone of this defense get frustrated enough to do something drastic?

There are positives and negatives to a possible walk off the job.

First, it's Wilfork's only line of defense right now. Yes, he is under contract.

It could get expensive, with missed paychecks adding up. Walking out might infuriate the Patriots as it did when Deion Branch refused to report.

Branch laughed all the way to the bank in that case, inking a six-year, $39 million deal with the Seahawks after New England balked at any such thing.

Wilfork's only other option is to buckle up, dominate the trenches and put up a monster year. His stock would rise, forcing New England to either place the franchise tag on him or allow the 330-pounder to test the free-agent waters.

Either way, it's a hefty payday and a step up the ladder, albeit with risks.

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