As is the case for teams around the league, the Patriots have several contractual notes to monitor at this time of year. Below are some of the intriguing contract-related notes pertinent to the team.
Quarterback Tom Brady: Brady signed an extension through 2017 back during the 2013 offseason, which includes base salaries of $7 million, $8 million and $9 million over the next three years, respectively. At the moment of signing the deal, those figures were guaranteed for injury only, meaning that in the event Brady suffered an injury that prevented him from continuing his career or the Patriots released him for an injury reason, he would still receive that money. On Saturday at 4 p.m. EST, those salaries become fully guaranteed. In a league where quarterbacks are exceedingly difficult to find and there are several cases of a quarterback whose play on the field does not meet his salary, Brady’s pact – by almost any measure – qualifies as one of the best in the league.
Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer: As ESPNBoston.com reported earlier this season, the Patriots re-tooled Vollmer’s playing-time incentives, lowering the requisite percentage of snaps played to earn up to $2 million. If Vollmer plays more than 70 percent of the offensive snaps this season, he earns $1 million; if he plays more than 80 percent of the snaps, he makes $2 million (previously, the two barometers were 80 and 90 percent). If Vollmer surpasses the 70 percent threshold, it also triggers a $1 million roster bonus due on the third day of the 2015 league year. He's on target to hit the 80-percent mark.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman: The Patriots built in a $500,000 bonus for Edelman for each of the four years of his contract signed this past offseason. For 2014, there are four ways he can earn that bonus: 1,057 receiving yards; 70 receptions plus seven touchdowns; 80 receptions plus 13 regular season wins; 80 receptions plus a Super Bowl appearance. Edelman’s status (thigh/concussion) for Week 17 is still unknown, but because he has already surpassed the 80-reception threshold, a win on Sunday would result in a pay-day for Edelman. If he does play, he needs just 85 receiving yards to earn the bonus, which would render the outcome of the game moot as it relates to his contract.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork: Wilfork restructured and extended his deal this offseason, and the Patriots have until the final day of the 2014 league year (which actually extends into March of 2015), to decide whether or not to exercise the two-year option for 2015-2016. As it relates to 2014, Wilfork has $3 million available in incentives. If he plays at least 70 percent of the defensive snaps, Wilfork earns $2 million. If he plays at least 70 percent of the defensive snaps and the team reaches the divisional round of the playoffs, Wilfork earns $2.5 million (note: the Patriots clinched a first-round bye and thus will play in the divisional round). If Wilfork plays at least 70 percent of the defensive snaps and the team finishes in the top 10 in scoring defense, he earns another $500,000. Entering Week 17, the Patriots are eighth in scoring defense at 19.7 points per game. The 11th-ranked 49ers allow 21.5 points per game. Our tabulations have Wilfork at 74.4 percent of the defensive snaps played this season.