Hampton deal may guide Wilfork talks
INDIANAPOLIS -- One day after owner Robert Kraft said the New England Patriots and nose tackle Vince Wilfork were close on a contract extension, a new deal for Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton might push them even closer.
Hampton reportedly agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract with $11 million in bonuses/guarantees, a deal that helps shape the market for nose tackles who play in 3-4 defenses.
Because the responsibilities of nose tackles in 3-4 defenses are unique -- which was a hot topic at the NFL combine Thursday -- establishing a market for them can be a challenge. But Hampton's agreement provides a general neighborhood, based on current market conditions, for where the Patriots and Wilfork ultimately will be, and could accelerate the process toward consummating a deal.
The general feeling at the combine among a handful of front-office types and agents was that the agreement would strengthen the Patriots' position in negotiations with Wilfork.
Wilfork is a superior player to Hampton, and is four years younger, so his market value figures to be a bit higher, although not as high as Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who signed a monstrous deal last year that included $41 million in bonuses and guarantees.
A contract for Wilfork would likely be anywhere in the range of $8 million to $9 million per year with bonuses and guarantees topping $20 million.
Pioli checks inFormer Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, was perhaps the most engaging NFL executive to answer questions from media members Thursday. He touched on a variety of topics that had ties to the Patriots. A sampling:
Can the Patriots' 3-4 defensive scheme still be successful in today's NFL? "Yes it can. Everything goes in cycles. They thought that defense was dead in '86 when the Giants won the Super Bowl, and then didn't go to the Super Bowl for two more years. And that defense didn't go to the Super Bowl from '90 to '96. You guys have run out of patience up there, haven't you?"
Thoughts on if a team can be successful without naming coordinators: "Different teams do it different ways, and I've been with a bunch of different organizations, including the Patriots, that have been successful with and without coordinators. The bottom line is that people in the locker room know who the boss is and who is making the decisions. Just because there is not a title out there for the rest of the world to see, it's never a secret to the players."
The importance of former Patriots coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel as staff members who weren't afraid to disagree with the head coach: "Absolutely, and that was something that [head coach] Todd [Haley] and I talked about and wanted to make sure we had more of. It's part of what we told them before they came here -- we want different ideas, we want to hear 'no,' there needs to be 'no.' It helps for growth. A lot of people say they want that, but not everyone wants that. Todd and I really want it, and we need it. We need to be pushed back. None of us has all the answers."