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I've long thought DeMarcus Ware is the best defensive player in the NFL. And I know what Albert Haynesworth can do to an offense.
So going into the offseason last February, I thought the two (Haynesworth as a free agent, Ware playing for a club that usually pays its stars handsomely) had a real chance to change the way defensive players were compensated. With Ware's deal wrapped up now, it seems like that's just what's happened.
Does this concern the Patriots? You bet. Vince Wilfork's contract situation is lingering. The club does have the protection of the franchise tag, and the affordable figure affixed to that for defensive tackles. It was $6.058 million last year, and will go up with new deals for Haynesworth and Giants DT Chris Canty factored in, but will remain reasonable.
But Wilfork, like most players, won't be happy if he gets tagged. How hard will it be to lock him up? Harder now.
My pal and ex-Dallas Morning News colleague Calvin Watkins, now with ESPNDallas.com, has the numbers on Ware's deal. The pertinent one here is the $45 million he'll receive over the first three years (2010-12) of the deal, which drives it into the range that quarterbacks get.
Ware's deal blows by Haynesworth's blockbuster, which calls for $41 million over its first three years. Haynesworth's deal also contains a poison pill that effectively makes it a four-year, $48 million contract.
Ware's deal includes $51 million over its first four years, but contains no such contract-killing provision. In fact, there's a pretty decent chance he'll make the $78 million over six years, provided he's still producing at 33, when the deal expires.
Hard to say whether Wilfork will be capable of getting into this stratosphere, but there will be a market for him, if he is to come free, because of his versatility and ability to play the nose in the 3-4. Haynesworth is 28. Ware is 27. Wilfork turns 28 next week. Ware's been to three Pro Bowls, Haynesworth two, and Wilfork one.
Now, consider that Jared Allen got $38 million over the first three years of the deal he signed with the Vikings in 2008, and you see what's happening here. The market is changing. Ware's three-year numbers represent an 18 percent jump.
Bottom line: Defensive players aren't going for what they used to. And the one who is perhaps most important to the way the Patriots want to play defense just saw his market value soar from where it might've been nine months ago.