BOSTON (CBS) – 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Fred Toucher and WBZ’s Dan Roche (filling in for Rich) talked to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald Friday morning about the Patriots and Vince Wilfork parting ways, plus some key free agent decisions facing the team.
The Patriots declined the 11-year veteran defensive tackle’s option this week, which left some Patriot fans in shock.READ MORE: 5-Month Old 'Fenway Baby' Becomes Crowd Favorite At Red Sox Game
However, Howe was not surprised by the move given the amount of bonus money and incentives tied to Wilfork’s contract.
“Looking at it from that way, it was probably an easy decision for the Patriots. On the other side, you’re always surprised when a team allows somebody like the caliber of Wilfork and what he has meant to any organization. Common sense said this has been coming for a year. That was the contract Wilfork signed,” Howe said.
“I’m sure he was very well prepared for this day to come, or at the very least for the Patriots to try to tinker with that contract. It is fair to assume that the Patriots asked him to take a pay cut and Wilfork said its not going to happen again.”
There’s tons of rumors going around the NFL, including Philadelphia being high on Patriots safety Devin McCourty. The New York Giants have also expressed interest in McCourty as well.
The Patriots used their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski and not McCourty, which leads to the question if McCourty will reach free agency.
“There is a lot that can happen in the next four days. Right now, I was told yesterday that nothing was imminent on the contract front in terms of re-signing with the Patriots. So right now it looks like he’s heading that way [free agency], but whose to say the Patriots aren’t just trying to make him blink first and maybe come at him at two o’clock on Tuesday afternoon and try to get a deal done,” Howe told Toucher and Roche.
McCourty is widely regarded as one of the top safeties in the NFL, so the interest from other organizations is very real.
“As for the Giants and Eagles, it’s almost like the Revis situation: any team that is not interested in McCourty needs to have their heads checked because he is by far the best safety out there, and so far better than the next couple of options that there is. There’s really not even a two or a three,” Howe added.READ MORE: Man Charged With Child Porn After Allegedly Dressing Like A Woman, Taking Pictures In Wrentham Outlets Bathroom
Looking on the offensive side of the ball, Patriots running back Shane Vereen hits the market at the exact right time, coming off a Super Bowl victory where he made 11 catches — some of them for key first downs.
“Vereen’s market right now is up to $3.5 million dollars a year, which is pretty much the going rate for running backs these days. That is kind of what you can expect Vereen to look at this offseason. The Patriots have shown so far no willingness to go anywhere near that number, which is how they’ve treated running backs since Belichick has been around,” Howe said.
“$3.5 million dollars for a guy who still has never rushed for 400 yards in his career, and I know how valuable he is for the passing game, but I don’t see the Patriots moving anywhere near that. If Vereen wants to get paid those figures, he’s probably gone.”
Howe has his doubts about Vereen returning, as well as Stevan Ridley, whose 2014 season came to a screeching halt Week 6 in Buffalo after tearing his ACL and MCL.
“I think Ridley wants to be back, but he owes it to himself that he’s going to get a one-year deal or something that looks like a one-year deal. He owes it to himself to find a depth chart where he can go out and guarantee that he’s probably going to be no worse than second, earn some carries and maybe take on the lead role at some point in the season,” Howe said.
“The way the Patriots have treated him in the last handful of years, any given fumble that could bury him he’s going to play for his contract in 2016. Again, I think Ridley should go to a place where he can guarantee himself some carries. I think its unlikely he’ll be back just because it’s not guaranteed that the Patriots give him the work he needs to get paid in a year from now.”
Howe also touches on Dan Connolly, New England’s reported interest in Brian Hartline and much more.