Could Colts Vie for Nose Tackle Vince Wilfork?


With the Indianapolis Colts in desperate need of some defensive line upgrades, the team couldn’t have picked a better potential offseason. Already linked to the Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh, the Colts may also get the chance to pursue longtime heralded 3-4 defensive lineman like the Baltimore Ravens Haloti Ngata and now, the New England Patriots Vince Wilfork.

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (75) in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots announced today that they will not be picking up Wilfork’s 2015 team option, which effectively will make him a free agent. The move saves $8.06 million of cap space for the Patriots, giving them more room to hammer out lucrative long-term extensions with both shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis and All-Pro Safety Devin McCourty.

At age 33, Wilfork’s best days are clearly behind him at nose tackle. Any team that would be signing him would be acquiring a situational run stuffer and veteran leader. As the anchor of some vaunted New England Patriots defenses, the 325 pound Wilfork is no longer the all-around dominating interior force he once was. Since being drafted as a 2004 first round pick out of Miami (Fla.), Wilfork has gone on to become a 1x All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowler, and 2x Super Bowl Champion in what looks like a future Hall of Fame career.

However, that doesn’t mean he still can’t be an effective situational run stuffer. Last season, in 16 starts, Wilfork had 47 tackles and 1 interception. Wilfork missed all but 4 games the season prior due to a torn achilles, the same injury suffered by Robert Mathis this past season. He’s proven he can still provide at least a solid rotational defensive lineman, even if he’s not the same player he once was.

Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (75) reacts after being called for a penalty during the second quarter against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Still, the advanced grades provided by ProFootballFocus (subscription) don’t shed too positive of a light on Wilfork, as he was ranked 79th overall out of 132 defensive tackle qualifiers with a -1.5 overall grade this past season. Even his run stopping prowess dipped, as he registered a -1.0 run stopping grade in that facet of his game.

At this point in his career, it’s highly unlikely he’d be an upgrade over incumbent starter Josh Chapman, who earned a +4.2 grade in run stopping. Many Colts observers would like to see the team find a starter at nose tackle, who’s an improvement over Chapman, not one who’s seemingly worse with all of Wilfork’s name recognition set aside.

It’ll be interesting to see what price tag Wilfork can command on this year’s open market. There is no question that a team like the Colts should refuse to pay him for his past production, as Wilfork is 33 years old and getting awfully long in the tooth for a nose tackle. However, he could still be an effective veteran rotational defensive lineman if used situationally.

As mentioned though, it doesn’t look like he’d be an upgrade over Chapman at all, and that would be the whole point of trying to make a big nose tackle signing. There are simply better alternatives if the Colts actually want to upgrade over Chapman as a starter, such as the Arizona Cardinals Dan Williams or perhaps even the aforementioned Ngata.

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (75) during Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports