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Patriots reach five-year deal with Wilfork, also keep Banta-Cain

The New England Patriots locked up their biggest offseason priority Friday, signing franchise-tagged defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, and they also re-signed their top pass rusher, linebacker Tully Banta-Cain.

Wilfork signed a five-year deal that's worth a maximum of $40 million, including $25 million guaranteed, a league source told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora. Wilfork received an $18 million signing bonus.

Wilfork has been an anchor in the middle of the Patriots' defense since he was the 21st overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. Now, he's reportedly one of the highest-paid defensive tackles in league history.

Wilfork first reacted to the news via Twitter.

"Thanks to everyone who supported us during our time here in New England, it has meant a great deal to us," Wilfork tweeted. "With that being said we are pleased to say we will be here for MANY more years to come."

Had Wilfork not agreed to a new contract with the Patriots, he would have been paid $7.003 million next season under the franchise tag.

For much of the season, Wilfork indicated he wouldn't be happy with a franchise tag. In January, he said on WEEI radio that such a designation would be a "slap in the face."

But when the franchise tag actually was used, Wilfork took a more accommodating approach in a posting to the Twitter account of his wife, Bianca.

"After six years of dedicated service I do understand this is a business," he 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."

Now Wilfork has the result he wanted, a long-term deal with the team that drafted him.

Wilfork had 43 tackles in 13 games last season. He missed the last three games with a foot injury and returned for the Patroits' only playoff game, a 33-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The Patriots had let several past players they'd given the franchise tag to leave after the season for which the tag was applied.

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


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Banta-Cain was an unrestricted free-agent, but he will remain in the fold for another three years after the new deal.

"I had some calls from my agent last night that we were going to try to get it done," Banta-Cain said during a conference call with reporters. "I was hopeful it would get done, and it did. I'm happy about that."

Banta-Cain played for the Patriots' Super Bowl teams in 2004 and '05, before going to San Francisco as an unrestricted free agent in 2007. After two seasons, the 49ers released him, and he re-signed with the Patriots.

Last season, Banta-Cain had a career-high 10 sacks and 55 total tackles while starting 10 games.

NFL Network's Michael Lombardi also reports that the Patriots re-signed guard Stephen Neal.

The moves came after wide receiver Randy Moss said last month at a charity softball event in Florida that he didn't expect to return to the Patriots after the 2010 season because he would cost the team too much.

Team owner Robert Kraft disagreed with that characterization.

"Do you know how much he (Moss) has made over the last two years? Over $20 million, so I don't think we don't pay for quality and I think you can see that," Kraft told The Associated Press in Indianapolis, where he was attending the NFL Scouting Combine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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