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Vince Wilfork might be ticked with the fact that he hasn’t been given a new contract, but that shouldn’t be a big surprise. Since Bill Belichick has taken over, it has been a fact that the team comes before any sole player. The sum is always greater than its parts.
Since the Patriots won their first Super Bowl, players have come and gone, and the only constant has been winning. With the draft and free agency, the Patriots have always seemed able to fill voids and fix weaknesses. For Wilfork, now he might seem like a staple in the defensive side, but next offseason, he might find himself outside of New England.
Remember guys like Drew Bledsoe, Willie McGinnest, Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Adam Vinatieri, Asante Samuel, Mike Vrabel, Matt Cassell, Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, and Josh McDaniels? They were once top players and coaches with the team…and have all since been replaced.
Many thought when the team of Crennel, Weis, and Belichick broke up, the Patriots would struggle. Although the team has no Super Bowl wins since the departure of Weis and Crennel, the Pats put together a perfect regular season (in 2007) and have possessed a consistently potent offense and defense. They will be a top contender this year and a favorite for another Super Bowl appearance.
There have never been issues of letting a player go, no matter how popular he was at the time. For many years, Adam Vinatieri was a Patriots mainstay and a team legend. Despite all that, he was able to walk and sign with the evil Colts. Stephen Gostkowski was drafted as his replacement and last season, he was a Pro-Bowler.
With a quick look to next season, the Patriots will have to look at who is worth keeping and who is on their way out. It will be hard to see Tedy Bruschi playing for another team, but should he not retire, his age and health will be issues with New England.
Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green are other free agents on the defensive line the Pats will have to look into signing. Other free agents Kevin Faulk, Ben Watson, Stephen Neal, Derrick Burgess, and Gostkowski will have to find their roles with the team next year, or be working in another city.
With Wilfork in mind, he is a dominating force for the Patriots and someone who would be hard to replace. Should the Patriots not be able to find someone in the draft, free agency options are available, Arizona’s Bertrand Berry, Chicago’s Adewale Ogunleye, and Tennessee’s Kyle Vanden Bosch are some of the headliners who, if not given the franchise tag, will be the big prizes in free agency.
For the Patrtiots, that is another day. The focus if on the 2009 season and looking for another Super Bowl win, anything less can be considered a failure. When the season is over, then the future of players can be worked out.