Wilfork already wearing contract war paint

New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork is girding up -- and there's a lot of girth to gird -- for what could be a nasty contract battle.

"I want a long-term deal, or I want to be free. Point blank," Wilfork said Wednesday on Boston sports radio station WEEI.

Wilfork's contract is up and he wants to be paid what he's worth. He was the Patriots' defensive MVP and their second-best player this year behind Wes Welker. Yes, I do know Tom Brady is on their roster. But Wilfork was that good in 2009 and is that critical to the future of the Patriots' 3-4 defense.

Wilfork stated a convincing case while a guest on the "Dale & Holley Show."

He has completed a six-year contract he signed as a rookie. ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss wrote an analysis of the Wilfork situation and focuses on that six-year deal. Reiss notes why that would give Wilfork conviction.

"I didn't like that six-year deal, but I did honor my six-year deal," Wilfork said. "Now that the deal is up, it's time for me to move forward with the Patriots or without the Patriots."

Of course, the Patriots could slap the franchise tag on Wilfork. A franchise tag pays a player the average of the top five highest-paid players at his position.

Those figures haven't been set for 2010, but last year's franchise tag for a defensive tackle was $6.058 million.

That sure sounds like decent money for us working stiffs, but that's a bargain for a player of Wilfork's elite status. A drawback for Wilfork is that franchise tags don't differentiate between defensive schemes. A 3-4 nose tackle is more critical to a defense than a 4-3 defensive tackle.

"[The franchise tag] is decent money for most people out there," Wilfork said. "What I do, it's OK. But I don't look at myself as an OK player. Like I said, it's just basically a slap in my face and an insult to me to basically tell me I'm an OK player."