ORLANDO — Vince Wilfork has asked for his release from the Patriots instead of agreeing to a pay cut. But that doesn’t necessarily mean his tenure in New England is over after 10 years.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, speaking Monday afternoon at the NFL owners meetings, called Wilfork “one of my personal favorites” and said he hopes the two sides can come to a compromise.
The Patriots are trying to decrease Wilfork’s $7.5 million base salary and $11.6 million salary cap number in 2014 — the final year of his contract — and so far Wilfork has not budged.
“In pro sports, it’s a business as well as commitment to one another, and we have to work through it, and I’m still not giving up hope that he’d be part of our team next year,” Kraft told a group of reporters.
“Either we get it done or we don’t. I very much hope we get it done, and I believe he very much would like to do it as well, and we’ve been so lucky to have him, so we’ll see what happens.”
Wilfork, 32, has played for the Patriots since they made him their first-round draft pick in 2004. He has been selected to five Pro Bowls and established himself as a pillar in the community through his play and charity work.
“Going back over the last 20 years, we’ve had some pretty special people come through, and he is one of my personal favorites,” Kraft said. “I’m thinking of Tedy Bruschi and Matt Light and Kevin Faulk and Troy Brown. They made their careers with us, and I surely hope Vince will be with us next year.”
But Wilfork is also turning 33 this fall and coming off a torn Achilles’ tendon that cost him the last 14 games of the season. He is set to have the second-highest salary cap number on the team, but the Patriots can save $8 million in cap space and $7.5 million in salary if they cut him. They can also lower his salary and cap number through a contract extension for one or two years.
“He’s making some individual decisions, and for us we have to put a team together of over 50 people and we have a salary cap,” Kraft said. “And in the end it’s about both parties feeling that it’s a good transaction and it’s a win-win, and I think that’s what we’re both shooting for.”Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin