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Patriots use franchise tag on NT Wilfork, say they want longer deal

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots placed the franchise tag on Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork on Monday, providing more time for negotiations toward a long-term contract.

Wilfork, a six-year NFL veteran, said he hoped the team would use the tag for that purpose.

The Patriots used a non-exclusive tag on Wilfork, according to ESPN.com. That gives the Patriots the right to match any other team's offer or let Wilfork go for two first-round draft picks. An exclusive tag would have tied Wilfork to the Patriots for the season.

As a non-exclusive franchise player, if a long-term deal isn't reached, Wilfork's 2010 salary with the Patriots would be $7.003 million, the average 2009 salary of the top five paid players at his position.

"A long-term agreement with Vince Wilfork has been the team's top contractual priority for some time," the Patriots said in a statement. "Unfortunately, despite numerous conversations and proposals, the goal has not yet been realized. Vince is a tremendous player for our team and remains a significant part of our future plans."

The Patriots also said, "We are hopeful that Vince will remain a Patriot for many years to come."

Last month, Wilfork said on WEEI radio in Boston that the franchise tag would be a "slap in the face." But he struck a more accommodating tone Monday in a posting on wife Bianca's Twitter page.

"After six years of dedicated service I do understand this is a business," the posting said. "With that being said it is my hope that the tag is applied for its true purpose. For the purpose of allotting more time for us to continue our talks and be able to reach a long-term agreement. Only time will tell what the final result will be."

The Patriots noted that in 2002, they named kicker Adam Vinatieri a franchise player, then reached agreement on a three-year contract extension. They again used the tag on Vinatieri in 2005 and cornerback Asante Samuel in 2007, and both left as free agents after those seasons.

The Patriots had until Thursday to use the tag on Wilfork, who made his second Pro Bowl this past season and has 303 tackles and 7.5 sacks in his career.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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