NFL Free Agency began last week and one reason it’s great is that it brings out the GM in all football fans. From the big signings (see Darrelle Revis) to the potential restructuring of Vince Wilfork’s contract, and even his asking for his outright release, there has been plenty of excitement locally regarding the Patriots role in the proceedings.
What fascinates me the most, however, is how fans so often react with their hearts as opposed to their heads.
Wilfork’s contract situation comes down to one thing: it’s not personal, it’s strictly business.
Not only is this a business decision on the Patriots part, it’s a business decision on Wilfork’s part as well.
Wilfork is gambling on his brand. He feels that he can come back and play at the level he did prior to his Achilles injury. This, given his size and the pounding taken at the nose tackle position, is asking a lot.
It was revealed during Wilfork’s recent interview on Showtime’s “60 Minutes Sports” that 66 percent of players who had an injury similar to Wilfork’s torn Achilles do not return to action, and those who do come back at a lesser level.
Think of each player as his own PR agent. Wilfork has to stand up and say he’ll be ready to play come training camp. He needs to position himself still as one of the best nose tackles to play the game. His window to keep playing football is closing and after 10 years in the NFL we can safely assume that Vince is on the back nine.
Vince is marketing himself to any other potential takers. In a world of content and page views, think of Vince as trying to get all other NFL teams to “click” on him as a rebuilt nose tackle who is ready to jump back in front of 300-pound linemen and clog up the middle.
Fans need to keep their emotions in check. Some fans avoid the facts and simply want Vince to stay because, well, he’s the face of the Patriots defense. Or they want him to say simply because he’s given the team 10 great years, and he’s a great guy.
We all know Vince is a great guy and great for both the community and Patriots Nation. That’s not in question.
If the Patriots paid players because they are great guys, they wouldn’t be in the running for the Super Bowl every season.
We know Wilfork’s relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft is rock solid, but Kraft is a shrewd businessman. If Wilfork can only perform at 75 percent then Kraft isn’t going to hang on to him for nothing more than a couple post game smooches, Kraft will defer to his all-knowing, all-world coach and let him make the decision.