Checkpoint coming for Vince Wilfork

The next two weeks should tell us more about Vince Wilfork and his contract situation with the Patriots. With Thursday the first day that teams can assign the franchise tag, a piece was put together for ESPNBoston.com recapping Wilfork's situation.

It is my opinion that this is priority No. 1 for the Patriots at this time.

I think they realize that Wilfork is their best defensive lineman and there is no replacement for him on the roster or the open market. I also think they realize that striking a long-term extension would send a message to two important groups: 1) The players in the locker room; 2) The fans who want to see a strong commitment in putting the best possible team on the field and have seen more high-profile departures than high-profile extensions of late.

When Asante Samuel was assigned the franchise tag in 2007, I didn't get the sense a long-term extension was likely to happen in New England. I don't get the same feeling with Wilfork.

That doesn't mean a long-term deal will happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if momentum builds toward that.

The next two weeks, when teams can assign the franchise tag to players, represent an important checkpoint on the road to that possibly happening.