I don't think there's ever been a free-agency period that I've enjoyed as much as this 2014 go-round for the Patriots. Usually, this is the time of year when my favorite players get signed away and I'm left wondering what bargain-basement no-name Bill Belichick will come up with to replace them. I don't lose too much sleep over it as I have supreme confidence in Belichick, but it's still not an overly fun ordeal.
This week, however, we had, Julian Edelman chosing the "leave it" option on a "take it or leave it" contract, the agony of losing Talib to the Broncos, the chest-thumping redemptive acquisition of Revis Island, the bomb-shell of Vince Wilfork requesting a release, the Twitter drama of Brandon Browner's agent getting his hockey game interrupted, Brandon Browner going missing for a day, and his subsequent signing by the Patriots, and now Edelman deciding to come back and "take it". It's been a crazy handful of days full of ups and downs and I haven't had this much fun since Blount Force Trauma was mowing over the Colts back in January.
Again, I'm still knee-deep in the Bloguin migration, so rather than write a bunch of articles about each of these developments, I'll give a quick recap of each of the main events since the Revis signing.
Wilfork Demands a Release – Outside of Tom Brady, there's no one who's more of a Patriot than Big Vince. He's a first-ballot inductee to the Hall at Patriot Place, without question. That being said, in the world of "next man up", even the biggest stars have an expiration date. Wilfork's contract is simply too big this year and his physical status is too uncertain for the Patriots to keep him at his current rate. It's simply a matter of getting every ounce of value you can out of your cap space to field the most competitive team possible. Even if the Patriots were going to be generous and pay Vince above market value, he'd still be due nowhere near the $11 million he's set to count against the cap this season. Good roster management dictates that Wilfork's deal can't remain as-is.
This understandably doesn't sit well with Wilfork, who had to scrape and claw to get his current contract in the first place. Still, Vince shouldn't be naive enough to think that he was going to actually see those final years as they were originally inked way back when. That's simply not how the NFL works. The bottom line is that no team is going to pay big money to an aging nose tackle coming off a devastating injury. The Patriots have Vince over a barrel. If they release him as he requested, he's still not going to get an offer anywhere near his current contract. The money he was slated to earn this year is essentially as good as gone. Vince can let his "pride" and "principle" get in the way and choose to take that lower salary from another team than the Patriots. But ultimately, he's better served staying in Foxboro, earning some good money, playing for a winning team, and cementing his legacy as a career Patriot. The alternative is suffering through a season as a Buffalo Bill, earning the same amount of money. Hopefully Wilfork comes to his senses and accepts his reality for what it is. He's a special player and I'd personally love to see him go out with one more Super Bowl ring here in New England.
Brandon Browner Signs – With the signing of Browner, the Pats may have just put together the best secondary in football. McCourty has solidified himself as one of the league's premiere safeties. Alfonzo Dennard is a solid #2 corner. Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon should make big strides if they continue their rookie momentum. When you add the best corner in the game in Darrelle Revis and then tack on a hard-hitter like Browner, the Patriots defense may have just become Peyton Manning's worst nightmare.
Teams are simply not going to be able to throw on the Patriots. Revis essentially shuts down one half of the field. With Browner/Dennard and McCourty on the other side, there's not many places for a QB to toss the ball. The NFL zigged by making the passing game easier. This is Belichick zagging once again, getting ready to stop opposing QB's in their tracks.
Edelman is Back – Julian Edelman has signed with the Patriots on a rumored one-year deal that is clearly much shorter than the three years the Patriots were offering him. Perhaps he decided to pull a Talib and take another one-year bet on himself in hopes of garnering a larger long-term contract next spring. Personally, I'm happy with that as Edelman has stayed healthy for all of one complete season. This short deal gives us another look at both Edelman and Amendola. This season, they will each get a second chance to wow Belichick. If Amendola underperforms again and Julian lights it up, the cap situation will make it much easier to cut Amendola and give that money to Edelman. If the reverse happens, then the Patriots were just spared from commiting long-term money to a player that was only able to put together one healthy season.