The Patriots have elected not to exercise their option on Vince Wilfork, meaning he will be released and will become a free agent within the next few days, according to the defensive lineman himself. Wilfork posted a statement on Twitter confirming the team’s decision.
“I want to take this time to just let everyon know that I was informed on Tuesday that the Patriots will now be picking up my option,” Wilfork wrote. “I’m in a good place [and] I have a great relationship with the Patriots organization. Please know how blessed my family and I have been to play 11 years in New England for [an] amazing organization.”
Wilfork, 33, has spent all 11 years of his career with the Patriots, playing 158 regular season games for the club, and starting 148 of those. An anchor in the middle of the defensive line in New England for the last decade, Wilfork looked like he may be leaving the team a year ago, before the two sides worked out a new deal to keep him around for the club’s Super Bowl 2014 season.
By turning down their option on Wilfork and removing him from the roster, the Patriots will avoid paying a $4MM roster bonus that was due next week, as well as his $3MM base salary for 2015. In total, the club will clear more than $8MM in cap room, reducing his cap hit from $8.933MM to about $867K in dead money.
Within his statement, Wilfork enthusiastically expresses his desire to continue playing football, noting that he has “lots of gas still left in the tank.” So once he officially becomes a free agent, it looks like he’ll shop around for a new NFL home.
As for the Pats, the decision on Wilfork is one of many difficult contract issues facing the club. New England also has to make a decision on Darrelle Revis within the next few days — the cornerback also has an option for 2015, and could face the same fate as Wilfork if the team decides it’s too expensive. Standout safety Devin McCourty is also just two days from being able to openly negotiate with rival suitors, and five days from being able to sign with a new team.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.