Two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork has agreed to a long-term contract that will keep him with the New England Patriots.
The team put the franchise tag on Wilfork last month, keeping him from becoming a free agent and giving the sides more time to work out a contract. Wilfork announced the deal on his Twitter feed and Patriots spokesman Stacey James confirmed Saturday that an agreement had been reached. Terms of the deal were not disclosed on Saturday. ESPNBoston.com, citing an NFL source, said the contract was for five years and $40 million.
For much of the season, Wilfork indicated he wouldn’t be happy with a franchise tag. In January, he said on WEEI radio that such a designation would be a "slap in the face."
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But when the franchise tag actually was utilized, he took a more accommodating approach in a posting to the Twitter account of his wife, Bianca.
"After six years of dedicated service I do understand this is a business," he said. "With that being said, it is my hope that the tag is applied for its true purpose. For the purpose of allotting more time for us to continue our talks and be able to reach a long-term agreement. Only time will tell what the final result will be."
Now he has the result he wanted, a long-term deal with the team that drafted him with the 21st pick in the first round out of Miami in 2004.
Friday’s posting on the Twitter account said, "We are pleased to say we will be here for MANY more years to come."
Wilfork had 65 tackles last season, most among Patriots defensive linemen and fifth on the team, in 13 games. He missed the last three games with a foot injury and returned for the team’s only playoff game, a 33-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
On Friday, the Patriots announced that they had signed linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, who led the team with 10 sacks last year. He received a three-year extension.
The moves came after wide receiver Randy Moss said last month at a charity softball event in Florida that he did not expect to return to the Patriots after the 2010 season because he would cost the team too much.
Team owner Robert Kraft disagreed with that characterization.
"Do you know how much he (Moss) has made over the last two years? Over $20 million, so I don’t think we don’t pay for quality and I think you can see that," Kraft told The Associated Press in Indianapolis, where he was attending the NFL’s annual scouting combine.
The Patriots had let several past players they’d given the franchise tag to leave after the season for which the tag was applied.
In 2002, they selected kicker Adam Vinatieri a franchise player then reached agreement on a three-year contract extension. But they used it again on Vinatieri in 2005 and cornerback Asante Samuel in 2007 and both left as free agents after those seasons.
The re-signing of Banta-Cain addresses the Patriots weakness at pass rushing. Wilfork has just 5 1/2 sacks in his career but is primarily concerned with occupying more than one blocker so his teammates can get at the quarterback or ball carrier.
Julius Peppers, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive end, could have helped rush the quarterback, but he signed with the Chicago Bears after leaving the Carolina Panthers.