How far can Pats, Wilfork take their standoff?

How far can Pats, Wilfork take their standoff?
March 19, 2014, 9:45 am
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(AP Photo)

When will Vince Wilfork’s “request” become a demand?

And when will the Patriots hardball right back at Big Vince and say, in essence, “Or what?”
 
It’s been nearly a week since Wilfork let it be known he wanted a divorce. The Patriots outwardly have stifled a yawn and gone about signing more football players for the upcoming football season.
 
At some point, this boil will need a lancing.
 
The Patriots’ level of urgency is dictated by bookkeeping, their ultimate decision dictated by three things.
 
First, whether the Patriots can swallow their restructure/pay cut demand and pay Wilfork $7.5 million in salary for his services in 2014 and $14 million for the 2013 and 2014 seasons combined. Not likely.
 
Second, whether they think Wilfork is indispensable to the success of their 2014 defense and all will be lost without him. Also, not likely.
 
Third, how long they want to squat on Wilfork and carry his $11.6 million cap hit while determining whether his Achilles has healed and where exactly Wilfork intends to go once released (they’d no doubt prefer to make it difficult for him to pop up on an AFC rival).
 
That’s where the bookkeeping comes in. The cap hit is onerous. The Patriots will have to carry that until they make a decision on which way they will go with him.
 
If they release Wilfork, they save $8 million against the cap. That’s money they can use on extensions, other free agents, etc.
 
Wilfork can lean back in his Barcalounger, knit his hands over his prodigious belly and say, “I ain’t coming in.”
 
Wilfork doesn’t necessarily have the Patriots completely over a barrel, but some messiness will result if both sides are entrenched.
 
If the Patriots are demanding a straight pay cut and no extension, Wilfork probably won’t budge. If the Patriots are looking to extend Wilfork to spread out his 2014 cap hit and sign him to additional years, there may be wiggle room. But even then, to get the cap hits to a workable level, the Patriots would have to go past two years. And on a player who’s coming off an Achilles and is 32, that seems unlikely.
 
The Patriots won’t think twice about releasing Wilfork if he is past negotiating. Start with Lawyer Milloy and count forward.

What they will think about is using the Wilfork contract to their advantage. He’s theirs. They can’t dictate to Wilfork when to come in. But they can tell him when he can leave.