Patriots May Not Be Able To Afford Wright

Mike Wright (Getty)

The New England Patriots make a point of paying players what they can within a certain framework. What happens when a versatile backup like Mike Wright hits free agency? Wright is generating the type of interest which may lead him to sign elsewhere.

Patriots free agent defensive lineman Mike Wright is making the rounds as part of his free agency tour. His first stop was in Arizona last week, where Wright met with the Super Bowl runner up Arizona Cardinals. Wright left town without a deal, but his visit may just be the first step.

According to Packer Report a league source informed the magazine that the Packers have interest in the reserve defensive lineman. Green Bay hired former Patriots special assistant Dom Capers to rebuild the Green Bay defense into the 3-4 schemes Capers was so successful with during his time as a defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. Capers honed his system with stops along the way in Carolina and Houston before landing in New England to work with 3-4 defensive master Bill Belichick.

According to the source’s knowledge, no meeting had yet been scheduled for Wright to meet with the Green Bay staff, but that might not be necessary considering Caper's familiarity with Wright last season in New England.

Mike Wright, started 2 out of 16 games for the Patriots in 2008.

The 6-foot-4, 295-pound reserve defender was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Cincinnati. He's only 27 and has played nose tackle, defensive tackle and end in the Patriots scheme. While he has just four sacks in 54 games over four seasons, he had a career-high four quarterback pressures in the Dec. 21 romp against Arizona this past season.

Capers worked for the Patriots last season, so he has personal knowledge of what Wright can and cannot do. Last season Wright played under the team's $1.417 million restricted free agent tender. According to a report in the Boston Globe, Wright may be looking for a deal similar to Keynon Martin's deal. Martin, also a role player, signed a five-year $20 million deal in 2006.

In 2009 dollars, Wright's agent certainly is using Colin Cole's recent deal. The 6-foot-1, 328-pound former Packer defensive tackle just signed a 5-year, $21 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks. The deal includes $6 million in guarantees.

Cole is 28, never started in 2008, but notched 30 tackles in 16 games. Wright appeared in 16 games with 2 starts, notching 28 tackles at the age of 27.

For a team looking for a proven player with playoff experience and one who knows how to play multiple roles, paying $2, 3 even 4 million per year isn't too much -- at least not if they expect him to be their starter. The Patriots pay their three starters on average well over that amount. It's hard to picture that they're going to pay that much to a role player like Wright when they can Draft his replacement and pay him under $2 million per season.

With Vince Wilfork set to become a free agent in 2010, it's imperative the Patriots pay their lead interior defensive lineman enough to make him happy. Judging by some of the contracts recently signed, including Albert Haynesworth's 7-year, $100 million deal with $41 million guaranteed, Wilfork won't come cheaply

Suffice it to say, if Wright gets the market rate, he's headed for greener pastures than those of New England. At least if he's in it for the money.

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