Vince Wilfork might still return to the Patriots

Vince Wilfork has been one of the cornerstones of the Bill Belichick Patriots for a decade. The team released him earlier in the offseason, bringing an end to the tenure of one of the better players to ever wear the team’s uniform.

But by some reports, Wilfork might be back in that same uniform again next year.

Wilfork, 33, has been manning the middle of the Patriots’ defensive line since being drafted in 2004. Listed at 6’2″ and 325 pounds (ha!), Wilfork was in some ways the unsung hero of those always-good Patriots defenses under Belichick. He may not command the attention of a Darrelle Revis or a Rodney Harrison, but what he did was just as valuable.

Wilfork was an invaluable member of the NFL’s preeminent franchise; his release last week was heartbreaking for Patriots fans, and most likely for the team as well. But this is Bill Belichick’s team; past performance and nostalgia mean nothing for Belichick, only results. Randy Moss and Dion Branch were traded at midseason; Wes Welker was lowballed on his way out the door; Lawyer Milloy was cut just before the season. This is not a team that values loyalty when it stands in the way of a better roster.

Wilfork understands that the NFL is a business (at least, he probably does), and if he doesn’t harbor any resentment toward the Patriots for declining his option in a cost-saving move, he could make a return to the only franchise he’s ever known. If, of course, the price is right.

He may not go back to the Patriots at all; maybe he’ll end up joining the Texans or one of the other two unnamed teams in Rapoport’s report (say that five times fast. Or don’t; do whatever you want with your time).

It’s hard to imagine Wilfork with another team, mostly because he’s never played for one. If all goes the Patriots’ way, though, we may not have to.

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