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New England Patriots Links 2/11/10 - Let The Tag Slapping Begin

<em>Good guy Gary Guyton was recently inducted into the Liberty County Sports Hall of Fame back in Georgia</em>.
Good guy Gary Guyton was recently inducted into the Liberty County Sports Hall of Fame back in Georgia.

Tom E. Curran explains the options regarding the Patriots, Vince Wilfork and the franchise tag.

Starting Thursday, the franchise tag can be gently affixed to players about to hit unrestricted free agency. Vince Wilfork, stay loose.

The tag -- which guarantees a player a one-year salary equal to the average of the top-five salaries at his position -- will be worth $7.003 for Wilfork if the Patriots use it on him. The Patriots can put it on anytime between now and February 25.

The Pats have the choice of making him an "exclusive" or "non-exclusive" franchise player. The difference is simple. Exclusive means he can't negotiate with other teams. Non-exclusive means he can but if he's offered a deal, his current team can either match or let him go to the new team in exchange for two first-round picks. Matt Cassel was a non-exclusive franchise player last year. Wilfork, because of his worth to the Patriots, figures to be exclusive.

A couple of things to keep in mind.

* Negotiations on a long-term deal can continue even if the tag is applied.

* Until the player signs the franchise paperwork, he isn't technically holding out. He doesn't have a "contract" just an offer of one from his current team. By rule, Wilfork can stay away up until Week 10 of the 2010 season.

* A) Wilfork's gonna be pissed if/when he gets tagged; B) he has cause to be; C) the more he talks about the injustice being done him, the less sympathy he'll engender.

* The chance exists that this will help spur negotiations. Talks were progressing until last August when, whispers are, they ran aground with the Patriots offering more than $20 million guaranteed (haven't heard the length of the deal) and haven't been seriously rejoined since.

VP of Officiating Mike Pereira spoke with 98.5 The Sports' Hub Felger and Massarotti during Super Bowl week, specifically regarding the renewed emphasis on the illegal contact rule.

Among other things, Pereira talked about the renewed emphasis that was placed in the middle of the last decade on the rule regarding illegal contact with receivers.  Pereira made it clear that Colts president Bill Polian, a long-time member of the Competition Committee, pushed the issue due to the perception/reality that Patriots defensive backs were manhandling Indianapolis receivers.

Pereira was candid regarding his belief that the change to the application of the rule made little sense.  Specifically, he said that the notion that a flag would be thrown and a first down awarded regardless of whether the contact actually generates an advantage for the defensive team "didn't seem logical."

"It was difficult for us," he said.  "You always tried to officiate the game advantage-disadvantage.  And so it didn't seem logical . . . to me at the time.  I probably wouldn't be saying this if I didn't have just four quarters left to go in my career.  But it didn't seem logical to me that you would take advantage-disadvantage out of the equation, that just a touch became a foul whether or not it had an affect or not."