With Logan Mankins officially receiving the franchise tag designation from the Patriots today, we're taking a look at what questions must be answered before Mankins can return to the field for the team:
3. Will Mankins accept the tender?
To sign or not to sign? I think that Logan Mankins was pretty clear last year that he wanted the security of a long term contract extension, so why should he be happy with just a one year deal under the franchise tag? In a recent tweet, Mike Reiss pointed out that if he signs the tender of $10.1 million (assuming it's non-exclusive), Mankins will make significanty more than he has made his entire career. That should be incentive, although it may not be as sweet as the fat signing bonus Mankins could get if he signs a contract extension. Still, the situation is a lot better than it was last year for Mankins, when he would have received just over $3 million by signing the restricted free agent tender.
But what do you do if you're Logan Mankins and you're not happy with the tender and a contract extension doesn't appear close? From his perspective, you acted on good faith last year by showing up three games earlier than you had to. Do you hold out again? Mankins can't really do much to force a trade. He could try to strike a deal similar to Asante Samuel, where the Patriots agree not to franchise him a second time. If I were Mankins, I would simply sign the tender when and if possible, then play it out for one year.
A look at the question: "Should the Patriots Keep Logan Mankins?" After the Jump!
4. Should the Patriots keep Logan Mankins?
This is really a question of opinion. However, there seems to be a lot of recent sentiment around Patriot nation that the team should try to get whatever they can for Mankins and move on. After all, at the Pro Bowl, he didn't seemed all too enthused to be a New England Patriot. The Patriots have replaced offensive linemen before (Joe Andruzzi, Damien Woody, etc.), so the Patriots can replace Mankins as well.
I'll be the first to say that I disagree with this popular sentiment. I think the Patriots would be wise to have Mankins around for next year and the foreseeable future. While the Patriots are very good at drafting and developing offensive linemen, some of who can come in and be key contributors/starters immediately (examples: Mankins, Matt Light, Nick Kaczur, Sebastian Vollmer), drafting is never an exact science. There are plenty of top picks that do not pan out. You can never guarantee a rookie to be a starter. I can also easily imagine a scenario where Stephen Neal retires and Matt Light departs via free agency. That would leave the Patriots with just Dan Koppen and Sebastian Vollmer as returning starters. That would leave you with a Nick Kaczur, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell and a slew of draft picks to fill the other three spots on the offensive line (and that's before injuries are even factored in!). Having to rely on two or three rookies and/or relatively inexperienced player (such as Wendell or Rich Ohrnberger) to play significant roles or perhaps start won't be good for the Patriots. I have even mentioned the fact that Dan Koppen is an unrestricted free agent after the 2011 season.
Tom Brady only has a finite number of years left in his prime. Putting him behind an offensive line in complete transition probably wouldn't be the smartest of ideas. Having Logan Mankins back will add to the continuity of that line, and allow time for more young players to develop. If the Patriots had a line of Light-Mankins-Koppen-Rookie (Wisniewski or Pouncey)-Vollmer that would be fine. Heck, even a Vollmer-Mankins-Koppen-Rookie-Kaczur line would probably be enough to get by. But if the Patriots are forced to go to a line of Vollmer-Connolly/Rookie-Koppen-Wendell/Rookie-Kaczur/Rookie is could make for some serious risky business.
Could the Patriots get by without Logan Mankins? Probably. But lets not forget there's a reason why this guy just got the franchise tag. There's a reason why he played in just nine games but was named a first team all-pro and Pro Bowl starter. Logan Mankins is an elite player who you can't just replace with any draft pick, no matter how good the team is at developing players.