...and it's news I honestly didn't expect:
The New England Patriots have paid big money to their big man in the middle by inking nose tackle Vince Wilfork to a five-year, $40 million extension Friday, according to a league source.
The deal, which includes an $18 million signing bonus and $25 million guaranteed, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports, makes Wilfork the highest-paid nose tackle in the NFL. It also provides him the long-term security he desires and ensures the Patriots -- hurt by the departures of several impact players in recent years -- retain a key part of their defense.
Wilfork is a huge part of the 3-4 defense, literally and figuratively -- Belichick has compared him to an oak tree in the middle of the defensive line. Locking him up to such a huge deal is not in keeping with Belichick's previous similar standoffs with big-name free-agents-to-be from Lawyer Milloy through Richard Seymour, and I had honestly begun to think as Wilfork's contract talks dragged on that they weren't going to re-sign him, either.
After affirming that they will stick to the traditional 3-4 scheme with both the Wilfork signing and another move reportedly made today to lock down much-improved linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, the Patriots will need to begin building up the linebacking corps. Banta-Cain and Jerod Mayo are half the battle, but there's already talk of the Pats going out to acquire another pass rusher.
Unfortunately, the player I'd hoped the Patriots would get at that position signed today, too -- in Chicago.
Anyway, it's early yet, and great that the Patriots are focused on their defense -- because the New York Jets may have just cornered the market on cornerbacks yesterday.