Although Patriots All-Pro left guard Logan Mankins has officially received the franchise tag, there is no insurance he will be back in 2011 with the Patriots. There are four major questions that must be answered in order for Mankins to take the field for the Patriots next season:
1. What will happen with the NFL CBA situation?
The Patriots have been allowed to use the franchise tag on guard Logan Mankins with the knowledge that the use of the franchise tag falls under the previous CBA that expires at the end of the 2010 league year. There's no guarantee that the franchise tag will even exist under the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (although I believe it will, even if it is modified). In addition, until a new deal is struck, Mankins won't even be able to sign an extension or even sign his franchise tender.
2. Is the designation the exclusive or non-exclusive version of the franchise tag?
Although we know the Patriots have officially used their franchise tag designation on Logan Mankins, we don't yet know whether the designation is exclusive or non-exclusive. Mike Reiss recently explained what the non-exclusive version means:
If the Patriots applied the non-exclusive version of the tag to Mankins, then he will be able to negotiate with other teams when the free agency period opens, pending labor negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA. Under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement, any team signing Mankins will be required to compensate the Patriots with two first round draft selections.
No, I don't expect any team to give up two first round picks for Mankins. But if the team used the non-exclusive version, Mankins is free to go an free agent visits (if there's a free agency any time soon) and gauge what his value could be to another team, which could potentially help or hurt his contract negotiations with the Patriots. Technically, it could also open the door to a trade, similar to how it did for Tebucky Jones back in 2003. The exclusive tag would prevent Mankins negotiating with any other teams, and would limit the Patriots options. It is worth noting that teams usually use the non-exclusive tag, with notable exceptions being the Bears (Lance Briggs) and Colts (Dwight Freeney) in 2007. Still, this question must be answered before knowing how much Mankins will make, and what type of freedom Mankins will actually have on the market.