Straight Talk: Wilfork and the DT/NT position

Jim Rogash


Siliga – 570 thousand dollar salary in 2014

Grissom – 420 thousand dollar salary in 2014

Wilfork – 7.8 million dollar salary and incentives in 2014


Siliga – age 23 and healthy

Grissom – age 23 was placed on injured reserve after suffering a high-ankle sprain, prior to that, the he was beginning to show flashes and was considered a strong candidate for the practice squad. Most likely he would not have made it through waivers, as other teams had shown interest in acquiring him even before he had shown what he was capable of during the pre-season. Teams like the Jaguars, who were desperate for DT prospects and had acquired every other lineman the Patriots had released during that timeframe… it might have been more than a high ankle sprain that landed Cory on IR, it might have been prudent decision making.

Wilfork – age 33 and coming off an achilles injury, just about the worst injury an athlete can get, 66% of athletes never recover fully from them, 27% need more than a year to recover from them to get close to where they were, even if they elected surgery. And Wilfork is at an especially dangerous position, where constant pressure of two other 300+ pound players are exerting maximum effort to move him back… which requires a lot of exertion, maximum tension, being put on the achilles.

Future prospects

Due to their young age, and relative inexperience in the NFL, it is logical to expect both Siliga and Grissom to improve in 2014, and to be able to sustain their production throughout the next few seasons. Both are under contract for 2014 and 2015, for very reasonable amounts, which affords the Patriots to invest money in other critical areas of need.

Wilfork is on the other end of the spectrum, at age 33, performance and production of DTs typically goes down past that age. He is a high risk for injury, not only due to his Achilles, but overall because age and a lot of wear and tear are catching up to him, as it would any DT/NT who has started in the NFL for ten years.

Financial considerations

Wilfork counts more than 11.6 million dollars against the cap this year, roughly 4 million of that is ‘dead money’, which has already been paid to him in the form of a bonus in years past. Wilfork’s salary (and other incentives yet to be paid) amount to approximately 7.8 million dollars.

Wilfork’s salary is guaranteed for 2014 if he is on the roster come opening day, if he goes down in the first game of the season, the Patriots are still on the hook for the full 11.6 million dollars.

Some have suggested fronting his salary to him in the form of a bonus, and extending him out for two more years. If you guarantee him 7.6 million on top of the 4 million in ‘dead money’ already on the books… it exposes the Patriots to being ripped not only for 11.6 million in ‘dead money’ between 2014 and 2015 seasons if anything happens to Wilfork… but the additional amount of whatever his salary is as well, which one has to expect would be more than a million dollars... so instead of protecting their interests, and relieving the financial burden Wilfork’s contract puts on the CAP, they have opened themselves up to a potentially worse situation, with more money at risk… instead of facing a 4 million dollar ‘dead money’ dilemma if they cut him, or a 11.6 million dollar dilemma if they keep the status quo, they are now facing a 13 million dollar dilemma (or more).

If Wilfork remains

Retaining Wilfork’s services almost certainly means one or more of the younger DTs now currently on the roster, won’t be come opening day. The Patriots carried both Armstead and Grissom on IR in 2014, and they brought in Jones, Vellano, Sopoaga and Siliga after both Wilfork and Kelly landed on IR as well.

Sopoaga will almost certainly be released before the start of the season no matter what happens, they will release him at the most beneficial time for them to do so. Whether that is after the June date so they can spread whatever ‘dead money’ cap hit they have to take between the 14 and 15 Caps, or whether that is after playing him in plenty of garbage time during the pre-season, there is no way of knowing.

That still leaves them with Jones, Vellano, Siliga, Grissom, Armstead, Kelly and Wilfork… seven DTs.

How many are likely to remain on the 53 man roster?

Reviewing past rosters, five seems a highly likely number, with an additional player (IE – Forston) on the PS, and another ending up on IR before the season ever starts.

If Wilfork is retained then, that means one of the players noted above won’t be. It also means there is a hefty amount of money tied up into the position, and going out and drafting a prospect high, and investing a few more million dollars into the DT position, is less likely to be done this year.

If they are going to retain Wilfork for many millions of dollars, and they are going to continue to develop players like Armstead, Siliga, etc. there is only so much opportunity, and so many roster spots available, making it prohibitive to invest even more resources into the position.

If Wilfork is released

If Wilfork is released, who steps up, who fills the role of NT/DT?

What likely occurs in this situation is emphasis in 2014 would go from having a dominant presence at the NT position, to needing more dominant play from the positions around him, the DT and DE positions lining up elsewhere on the line.

It is likely they could get that performance from players like Jones, Kelly, Armstead, and any as yet undrafted or unsigned FAs yet to be added to the roster.

The players who would have to step into the void left by Wilfork would be Siliga and Grissom.

Cory Grissom is signed for 3 years / $1.49 million with the New England Patriots. He is making $420k in 2014. --- 6’1 320 pounds

Grissom is a high-effort interior lineman who opens lanes for his teammates. He is not one to shoot gaps and sack quarterbacks. Grissom boasts a low center of gravity, though he struggles when he takes on double teams, it is an area that can be improved with effort and technique. Grissom is very much in the mold of a clogger.

Grissom’s greatest triumphs have come versus the run. Setting up anywhere from the three-technique to the zero-technique, Grissom collected 105 combined tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss over his collegiate years.

He was never regarded as a dangerous penetrator, but rather as a gritty defender who will fight to prevent first downs. He will be effective as a space eater and run stuffer, able to hold his position and allow those around him to shoot the gaps and make the plays.

Sealver Siliga is signed for 3 years / $1.44 million with the New England Patriots. He is making $570k in 2014. --- 6’2 325 pounds

Siliga is not an explosive pass rusher and will not dominate along the line the way Wilfork could.

He can shed from the nose to grab running backs coming through either gap. He has shown he can be effective at the nose in the Patriots system allowing for others to come in and make the plays while he ties up multiple O-linemen.

Siliga stands his ground adequately but does not make much headway. Will not make many plays in the backfield on his own, or chase down ball carriers from behind, he does not have the athleticism or strength to be the impact player along the line that Wilfork was.

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