Patriots positional review: Defensive line

Patriots positional review: Defensive line
February 17, 2014, 8:30 pm
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Tom E. Curran continues his position-by-position analysis of the Patriots as we head into the offseason. Today: Defensive line. Tomorrow: Linebackers and defensive ends

VINCE WILFORK
AGE: 32 (11/4/81)
STATS: 4 games, 9 tackles
CONTRACT: Expires after 2014
2014 CAP HIT: $11.6M ($7.5M salary, $3.6M prorated bonus, $200K workout bonus)
 
His season was ruined by a blown Achilles but prior to that, the big man wasn’t playing like he normally does. Were the first four games of 2013 related to an undisclosed injury, a mere “warming-up” period or the sign of Big Vince’s decline? Makes a big difference because Wilfork is taking up a lot of room against the cap in 2014. My belief is the lack of physical punishment to the rest of his body while his Achilles healed will make a big difference for Wilfork in 2014 and he’ll come back as one of the league’s most impactful defenders, which is what he was before he went down. The time is now for post-Vince drafting though, as his contract expires at the end of the 2014 league year.
 
TOMMY KELLY
AGE: 33 (12/27/80)
STATS: 5 games, 22 tackles, 2.5 sacks
CONTRACT: Expires after 2014
2014 CAP HIT:  $3M ($1.95M salary, $500K prorated bonus, $500K roster bonus, $50K workout bonus)
 
The question Tommy Kelly inspired during his five games in 2013 was: “Where the hell did THIS come from?” The defensive tackle was a force, along with Aqib Talib, the Patriots best defender and when he went out, it hurt more than the loss of Vince Wilfork. Kelly is 33, coming back from a knee procedure and if he can approach what he provided the Patriots in the glimpse of time he was in the lineup, it’s a major bump for the front.  
 
SEAVER SILIGA
AGE: 23 (4/26/90)
STATS: 5 games, 23 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
CONTRACT: Expires after 2014
2014 CAP HIT: $2,717,429 ($769,806 salary, $1,177,817 prorated signing bonus, $769,806 roster bonus)
 
Outstanding performance from a player nobody expected to make a dent. Siliga came in and made the signing of Isaac Sopoaga moot, clogging things up in the middle and helping cover for a run defense that was getting steamrolled every Sunday.
 
ISAAC SOPOAGA
AGE: 32 (9/4/81)
STATS: 8 games, 12 tackles, 1 sack
CONTRACT: Expires after 2015
2014 CAP HIT: $3.75M ($3.75 salary)
 
The Patriots took a run at Sopoaga, swinging a deal with the Eagles. It didn’t work out. He just wasn’t productive enough. It will be a real surprise if he isn’t released and the committed cap money is saved.
 
CHRIS JONES
AGE: 23 (7/12/90)
STATS: 13 games, 54 tackles, 6 sacks
CONTRACT: Expires after 2016
2014 CAP HIT: $495K ($495K base salary)

Pressed into service before he was ready, Jones – like Siliga and Vellano – overachieved. There were games he looked overmatched but there is a strong chance for improvement like Mike Wright had before concussions ended Wright’s career. Solid upside.
 
JOE VELLANO
AGE: 25 (10/30/88)
STATS: 16 games, 54 tackles, 2 sacks
CONTRACT: Expires after 2015
2014 CAP HIT: $495K ($495 base salary)
 
Hard-working overachiever who is likely to be a staple of the front along with Jones and Siliga for a few years. All three players come at low cost because they were undrafted so the Patriots aren’t moving off these guys anytime soon.