Veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork announced that the New England Patriots will not be picking up his option, making him a free agent when the 2015 league year begins March 10.
What it means: Wilfork's value to the Patriots has multiple layers, and the team takes a hit if he's not on the roster. He is still an effective player on the interior of the defensive line; his 6-foot-2, 325-pound frame contributes to the club's run defense and also as a pocket pusher at times. Wilfork's impact extends to the locker room, where he has been a pillar and leader whom many look up to.
Still, this decision was expected based on the dollars in play -- Wilfork was due a $4 million roster bonus March 10 and would have counted $8.9 million against the salary cap -- as the financial numbers are no longer in line with where the 33-year-old is at this point of his career.
What’s next: In his tweet, Wilfork didn't rule out the possibility of re-signing with New England for 2015. We haven't heard from the Patriots if they would be open to Wilfork's return, but it's hard to imagine they wouldn't be if the sides could work out a new contract.
At this point, Wilfork will have the freedom to test the market and see what he's worth, and it's our educated guess that the Patriots will keep a dialogue going with him and let him know the door remains open for his return, depending on what unfolds on the market. Should Wilfork depart for good, fourth-year pro Sealver Siliga (6-2, 325) is the projected replacement.
Personal thought on Wilfork: This is the way you draw it up when selecting a player 21st overall in the draft, as the Patriots did in 2004. Wilfork is a future Patriots Hall of Famer, the only team he has ever played for. He began his career with a Super Bowl victory, and if this is really the end, it is with another Super Bowl title. From this viewpoint, he deserves all the success and accolades that come his way.