Bold Prediction: The Patriots will re-sign left guard Logan Mankins for a long term deal.
I said it. Mankins is the best offensive lineman on the Patriots' and its not even close. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is in the second tier, and then left tackle Matt Light and center Dan Koppen are in the third tier. Mankins is to the offensive line what Vince Wilfork is to the defensive- dominant.
Mankins has spent the last season in limbo with the Patriots, joining the team halfway through the season in order to register a contract year. Mankins wanted a long term deal worth the value of the top guard in the league. The Patriots were willing to pay him a long term deal worth the value of a top guard in the league. The difference was anywhere from half a million a season to a over one million per season between the two deals and both parties could not come to an agreement. As a result, Mankins ended another successful season with questions about his Patriots' career in front of him.
However, the sharp relationship between Mankins and the organization has softened over the past year. Prior to last season, Mankins was saying that he wanted to be traded, and by the end of the year he believed there was a possibility he would return to the team. The wording might not be strong, but he shifted his attitude from "anger" towards the franchise towards a desire to figure out his future, even if that happens to be with the team.
Mankins loves it in New England. He loves his offensive line brethren. The offensive line loves him back. Quarterback Tom Brady loves him. Team owner Bob Kraft loves him.
Most importantly, head coach Bill Belichick loves him.A large portion of this off-season has been a respect-fest between Mankins and Belichick. Belichick knows that Mankins is the best offensive lineman for the team and is willing to add some sugar into the conversation to lure Mankins back. The Patriots had tagged Mankins prior to the off-season NFL fallout, which put Mankins in an unfortunate position. He must have been wondering if he was going to have to sit through another painful season with the Patriots' franchise tag. Despite the high price, Mankins would rather have a long term contract with stability instead of a one year deal- especially if he could play with his guys on the Patriots.
As a result, Belichick has made it obvious how much he respects Mankins. He sent first round pick left tackle Nate Solder to talk to Mankins in order to learn the Patriots' offensive line. He could have sent Solder to speak to long time Patriots left tackle Matt Light because they play the same position. He could have sent Solder to talk to long time Patriots center Dan Koppen because he's still under contract. Instead, he sent Solder to speak with Mankins- a player that neither is under contract, nor plays the same position. That's a large sign of respect.
Oh, and Mankins has already spoken with Solder.
"Yeah, I have spoken to Nate. He seems like a great guy. I gave him a little advice. Tried to help him out the best you can in the situation that we’re in right now," Mankins said of Solder, a left tackle who was selected in the first round of last month’s draft by New England. "I’m more than willing to help any young guy who needs anything. Look — he’s in a tough situation right now. He doesn’t know what’s going on. he has no coaches to talk to. He’s just trying to make it in this league, and if I can help him, I will."
That's the response from a guy who wants to be on the team. Belichick threw Mankins a bone, and Mankins accepted. Trust building 101.
That's not the end, though. The NFL Network has been running down a list of the top 100 NFL Players in the league, and Mr. Mankins showed up at #39 overall. The Hoodie was chosen to present the piece.
"There are tough players and then there are the super tough guys. I’d say Mankins would go into [the second] category. Both physically and mentally, he’s as tough as they come. … You could honestly pick out any one of 30 plays of him in any game and find him really dominating guys."
Belichick loves him some Mankins and Mankins must have smiled upon hearing praise from his head coach.
One of the key points of this off-season is how well this team can perform under a short pre-season. Bringing back not only the best offensive lineman, but also one of the more experienced would help tremendously. Watch out for more roses being tossed from Belichick and the Patriots in the direction of Mankins and watch Mankins continue to serve the team from afar.
It's going to happen. Mankins will receive a long term offer and he will accept. It's just a matter of when.