The New England Patriots lost another key member of their Super Bowl winning team Thursday, but rumors now say that Coach and General Manager Bill Belichick is attempting to bring back another foundation of his defensive unit, 325-pound nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
It was only last week that the Patriots cut ties with the 11-year veteran, who, along with Tom Brady, is one of only two players to be part of the Patriots’ last two Super Bowl championships, a decade apart. Although Wilfork is rumored to have offers on the table from three other AFC organizations, the lure of returning to New England — who picked him in the first round of the 2004 draft — is believed to exert a strong pull on the 33-year-old.
At the same time, rumors circulated on Thursday that the Patriots had also extended an offer to Brandon Browner, who paired with the also-departed Darrelle Revis to form one of the most impenetrable cornerback combos in the NFL last year.
As with Revis, New England allowed Browner to become a free agent after just one season in Foxboro, by refusing to pay him a $2 million bonus that would have been owed to Browner if he was on the Patriots roster by 4 pm Eastern Time Tuesday.
But while Revis was clearly too expensive to fit under the Patriots’ salary cap without seriously damaging the organization’s ability to assemble a viable team around him, the Patriots — according to the rumors — wanted Browner back, albeit at a lower pay grade.
But before that rumor had time to become an actual story, Browner reportedly reached an agreement to join the New Orleans Saints on a three-year contract for approximately $18 million — clearly more than the Patriots were willing to pay for the former All-Pro.
Wilfork, on the other hand, was reported to be “taking his time” making a decision, with a New England comeback still high on his list. But the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts are also making a strong bid for Wilfork, along with another team that has yet to be revealed, even in the rumors that fly uncontrollably in these early stages of the NFL free agency scramble.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2015
The Patriots are certainly not banking on their ability to bring Wilfork back into the fold, however. Rumors have linked New England to Denver Broncos free agent Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton, as well as Detroit Lions tackle Nick Fairley and the Cleveland Browns’ Ahtyba Rubin, also a free agent.