1. Did the Patriots think Wilfork wasn't worth a two-year, $9 million contract with $5 million guaranteed? That's the contract Wilfork signed with the Texans and it seems reasonable. If this was a case where the Patriots had the opportunity to match, and decided against it, I'm surprised.
2. Did Wilfork simply decide it was time for a fresh start? As much as Wilfork loved his time with the Patriots, it didn't come without challenges. There were a few tough contract negotiations, the most recent last offseason when he was coming off a ruptured Achilles. His close friend on the coaching staff, Pepper Johnson, also departed after the 2013 season. Maybe the combination of those factors, coupled with some familiar faces in Houston and close friends around the NFL landing with new teams for the first time (e.g. former Miami Hurricanes teammates Andre Johnson and Frank Gore) sparked the feeling that even if the money was close, it would be nice to see things from a different perspective. For some players, it's easier to take a pay cut with a new team than one you've given such a long run of service to, and perhaps that's part of the dynamic in play here.
This is one of the challenges of writing and reporting in the 24/7 news cycle. You're asked to formulate opinion and analysis without complete context.
So, for now, I keep coming back to this thought: Without knowing the answers to the above questions, and assuming everything is good on the health front, the goodbye seems premature with Wilfork. The financial numbers don't seem that far out of line to have him do what so few do in the NFL any more -- go wire to wire with one team.
Wilfork still can play effective football, as evidenced by the fact that the Patriots left the door open for his return after not picking up his option bonus and making him a free agent. He might not be what he once was, but he clearly still has value clogging up the middle and especially in the locker room, where everyone from rookie Dominique Easley to eight-year veteran Alan Branch talked last season about how they learned so much just from being around him.
Who wouldn't want that type of player on their team for a two-year, $9 million contract with $5 million guaranteed?
It's a hard one to figure.
Maybe we'll learn more in the coming days what led to this outcome and it will become more clear.