Vince...he dah man! Drafted 21st overall in 2004, all 325 lbs of Mr. Wilfork has been front and center on the Patriots' defensive line for the past five seasons. Guess what 2009 is? It's the end of his contract. Are you screaming yet? Are you reaching for the hair of the dog that bit you? Fear not - Belichick's smarter than you and most definitely me.
Vince Wilfork - There's little to write here: PAY VINCE!! PAY VINCE!! While he hasn't overtly said it, I'm sure Wilfork is looking to get his contract stuff straightened out sooner rather than later. And unlike many crybabies around the league, he hasn't made a jerk of himself by threatening to stay out of training camp or park in the VP's spot. While NE will, more than likely, make Wilfork happy, Belichick did what any smart coach would do and he prepared for a possible negative outcome by drafting not one but three defensive tackles. Now, I'm pretty sure Ron Brace will be the only one to survive, but it certainly changes things for Vince with a young guy wanting to make a mark.
Richard Seymour - Yet again, we have a star whose contract is up in 2009. A five-time Pro Bowler, Seymour has been a mainstay at defensive end. Even though he's suffered some injuries in the past few years, he's still productive and dangerous. Like Wilfork, Richard needs to be re-signed, although I'd put Wilfork a notch higher on the priority scale.
Ty Warren - Signed through 2013, we have little to worry about here. Ty rounds out the front three nicely and is always somewhere in the fray, either at the top of the tackle list or dang close. He'll be around for a while.
Jarvis Green - One of our main DE backups, Jarvis is signed through 2009. A starter in his own right (and has done so on many occassions), it doesn't hurt to have a guy like him ready and waiting when needed.
Steve Williams, Kenny Smith, Le Kevin Smith, Mike Wright, Titus Adams - These big men all play reserve roles on the defensive line and are frequent special teams contributors. Some may be training camp fodder, but it's always good to have a number of players to choose from.
Ron Brace, Myron Pryor, Darryl Richard - All three drafted in 2009, Ron Brace is the clear leader of this pack and could be the young guy Belichick puts in place to give Wilfork something to think about. Brace was an excellent pick at 40th overall; a great value.
It's hard to fault the front starting three given all the success they've had. Through our defensive back struggles, Warren, Wilfork, and Seymour have been as solid as they can be. However, with both Wilfork's and Seymour's contracts coming due in 2009, there needs to be a plan. Always stocking up for the future, Belichick appears to have laid the groundwork for that future.
Are we good with the defensive big men? Do we need a high profile veteran? Can Seymour stay healthy enough fill his former Pro Bowl shoes?