The big news last night was the decision by the Patriots to place the franchise tag on Logan Mankins, although it’s not something that wasn’t expected.

There are plenty of stories this morning on the topic, so let’s get to it.

Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe looks at the move and writes that Mankins will receive a one-year, guaranteed contract equal to the average of the five highest-paid players at his position.  That number is expected to be $10.1 million, however Young points out that in 2010, the number for offensive linemen was $10.7 million.

The team said in a statement that despite the issues the two sides have had trying to get a new deal done, that still remains their focus.

“Logan Mankins is a tremendous player,’’ the Patriots said in a statement. “He has been a fixture on our offensive line since we drafted him in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft and he remains an important part of our future plans. Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach a long-term agreement, despite many attempts and proposals by both sides. That remains our objective in utilizing the franchise designation and we are hopeful that Logan will be a Patriot for many years to come.’’

Young points out that Mankins was given the non-exclusive tag, which means he’s still able to negotiate with other teams and potentially seek a trade.   In order for that to happen whatever team wanted him would have to give up two first-round picks, although both sides would be able to work out trades with different terms.

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald has an article on the topic, and writes that the normally outspoken agent for Logan Mankins, Frank Bauer, offered “no comment” when asked about the subject yesterday.  One can only hope that he’s trying not to create any ill-will between the two sides if they’re still quietly negotiating.  The Patriots used the designation on Vince Wilfork to extend the negotiating period and ultimately reached a deal, so it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility.  New England is also the first team to use the designation, which is something the players have argued against since there is no Collective Bargaining Agreement for next season as of yet.

Christopher Price of WEEI.com looks at what may happen next with Mankins, and mentions previous Patriots who have been down this same road.

Jeff Howe of NESN wonders if the relationship between Mankins and the Patriots will get worse now that he’s been given this designation, despite telling the Boston Herald that he wouldn’t be pleased if it happened.

An interesting article in the “BayouBuzz” this morning, with former Patriots fullback Heath Evans telling the newspaper that he will only consider signing with the Saints or the Patriots this offseason.  Evans told the newspaper that head coaches Sean Payton and Bill Belichick are the only two coaches he’d run through “a brick wall for”.

Fox Sports has an interesting free agent look at the AFC, and has a player-by-player breakdown for each team along with their needs.

Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com takes a look at potential free agent quarterbacks the Patriots may target, and even makes a humorous mention of Peyton Manning and Michael Vick as being possible candidates.

Patriots.com has an article from the AP which has the agent for Tom Brady, Don Yee, offering up a compromise for the proposed 18-game season.  He feels that having a player sit for two games would generate interest, while also allowing individual players a couple of games off.

“This compromise will create even more interest from fans,” Yee said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “What two games will the head coach sit the starting QB? That’s a discussion that will set sports talk radio airwaves afire.”

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com ponders whether or not the Patriots will look to add another cornerback in this year’s draft after landing Devin McCourty last April.  McCourty went on to finish his rookie season with seven interceptions.

And finally in a non-Patriots related story, some sad news.  Greg Rosenthal of MSNBC reports that a member of the “Never Missed a Super Bowl” club has passed away.  Bob Cook, who is featured in the famous commercials, missed the game for the first time this year because he was too ill to attend.  He was a Packers fan, and watched his team win it all while in the hospital.  He reportedly passed away last week.