With the deadline to designate the franchise tags on players fast approaching, the New England Patriots gave that distinction to nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
The tag was non-exclusive, which allows teams to host Wilfork on a free agent visit, and they can offer him a contract. If the Patriots don’t match it, then the team that signs Wilfork must compensate New England with two first-round draft picks.
If Wilfork signs the Patriots franchise tender, he will have a contract with the team for one year worth $7 million.
This is only the beginning, though. The tag was more of a strategic move than it was a contract offer to Wilfork.
What both sides really want is a long-term deal.
Throughout the whole process, Wilfork and his wife Bianca (who is very twitter-happy about all of this) have said they want more than just a one-year franchise tag offer.
“That’s the one thing you play for, long-term security,’’ Wilfork told reporters in January. “That’s something we’re trying to get. I don’t want to be playing with one-year deals and franchise tags, because I’ll be right back at the same point I am right now.’’
Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft has expressed his interest in signing Wilfork to a long-term contract, and they are working on completing that deal.
“Look, we love Vince. He and [his wife] Bianca have been a special part of our franchise. We love having him here. I hope he’s here for a long time to come. We’re trying to do everything we can to make that happen.”
What is the purpose of the tag then?
Well the answer to that is two-fold.
The biggest thing assigning Wilfork the franchise tag does is give both sides more time to work out a longer contract. Teams had until Feb. 25 to assign the franchise tag to a player, or else he would be allowed to test the free agent market.
The tag allows the Patriots to still have the rights to Wilfork and negotiate with Wilfork while deterring other teams from talking to him (for fear of losing two first rounders).
Wilfork had previously said last month on a Boston sports radio show that the franchise tag would be a “slap in the face” and that New England should sign him to “a long-term deal or I want to be free.”
However, with the non-exclusive tag the Patriots give Wilfork some freedom in allowing him to visit with other teams and allowing the option for him to sign an offer sheet with another team.
This tag is strictly business, protecting the Patriots assets and giving them more time to work out a more desirable contract for Wilfork.
And if no deal can be reached?
Well then the Patriots would receive compensation for losing one of the league’s elite nose tackles.
Again, it’s good business for the Patriots, and Wilfork’s camp recognizes that.
Both sides seem to want to continue discussion, so this was just a move to stall for more time while keeping both sides in the game.