FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Asante Samuel has been in Vince Wilfork’s position. In 2007, he was a young free agent who had become one of the best at his defensive position by the time his rookie contract had concluded, and he was likely to be slapped with the franchise tag.
Today, Samuel offered a cutting perspective on how he thinks Wilfork should approach his contract situation with the Patriots.
“I don’t think they care about you, in my opinion,” Samuel said after the NFC’s Pro Bowl practice. “They didn’t care about me. So do what’s best for you and your family.”
While Samuel spoke up, Wilfork took a break from his verbal campaign. On Wednesday, he went on WEEI and strongly expressed his disdain for the possibility of becoming the Patriots franchise player. Yesterday, he told the
Miami Herald South Florida Sun-Sentinel that playing in Florida would be “a dream come true.”
Today, in the wake of the NFL releasing their franchise numbers, Wilfork was asked what precise recourse he would take if the Patriots did indeed franchise him and thereby gave him a one-year, $7.003 million deal. Wilfork’s answer showed that he wants to put the issue on pause for now.
“I don’t know,” Wilfork said. “We’ll find out then. I said what I had to say, and I’m done with it. Next time I approach that is when I find out what’s going on. I had to say what I had to say, and that’s it. Whatever happens, happens. Next time I talk about it is when I hear something or something happens. Right now, nothing has happened. I already talked about it, so I don’t want to keep hammering at it.”
The best parallel for Wilfork’s status may be Samuel. In February 2007, when Samuel was 26 years old and four seasons into his career, the Patriots hit him with the franchise tag. The sides then struck a unique agreement for the season. If Samuel participated in 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps or the Patriots won 12 games, the Patriots would not be able to franchise him again the next year.
Samuel played the 2007 season and, when he was not franchised again, he signed a $56 million, six-year contract with the Eagles. Samuel received his payday, but his dealings and negotiations with the Patriots left him with lingering animosity.
The Patriots kept him on for a year by franchising him, but they also guaranteed he was gone afterward. In Samuel’s view, the Patriots’ approach may affect the way future free agents view the team.
“From my end, it would, definitely,” Samuel said. “But they’ve got their own mind-set. The way they treat people is not something I agree with. But everybody has their own opinion.”
“I don’t know how other people are going to take it,” Wilfork said of his own contract situation. “I’m not doing this for other people. I’m doing what’s best for me and my family.”