The Patriots release Vince Wilfork earlier this off-season, but it wasn’t for lack of talent. Wilfork graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 13th ranked 3-4 defensive end last season, including 6th against the run, which is his specialty. He was released because he simply wasn’t worth his 8.5 million dollar salary, going into his age 34 season. The Texans are paying him significantly less than that, as Wilfork will make 5 million in 2015. It’s also a relatively low risk deal, as there isn’t any guaranteed money beyond 2015 (he can make 4 million in 2016 in the 2nd year of this 2-year, 9 million dollar deal).
I also like the fit in Houston. This is where I expected him to end up since the Patriots released him. The Texans are building a mini-New England west in Houston (minus, obviously, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Head Coach Bill O’Brien was with New England for 5 years, including 2011 as offensive coordinator. The two quarterbacks competing for their starting job in 2015 (Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett) are both former Brady backups.
On the defensive side of things, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was the Patriots’ defensive coordinator for 4 years, including Wilfork’s rookie year in 2004. Linebackers coach Mike Vrabel is a former teammate of Wilfork’s. Wilfork also fills a big need at nose tackle between JJ Watt and Jared Crick, as 2014 3rd round pick Louis Nix missed his entire rookie year with injury and hasn’t been healthy since his junior year at Notre Dame in 2012. Wilfork can also play 3-4 defensive end, but his run stopping abilities are best utilized on the nose in base packages. This is a solid move.