Will New 'Rules' Lead to a New Deal For Mankins?

Ian Logue
July 18, 2011 at 04:45pm ET

Colleagues take to Twitter to praise ‘perfect’ play-by-play man
Year after year, Gil Santos delivered
Bill Belichick pays tribute to Patriots Hall of Fame broadcaster Gil Santos
Bill Belichick pays tribute to the late Gil Santos
Tight end Troy Niklas’ “crazy” story makes him a Patriot and a father, too

Last year when the Patriots were trying to get a deal done with offensive guard Logan Mankins, one of the roadblocks preventing them from being able to get an agreement reached was said to have been that the front office needed to know what the framework would be with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Now that the new guidelines are close to being in place, it’s going to be interesting to see if something can once again be worked out in order to keep him here in New England.

Now that a new CBA is close to being done, what will that finally mean for Patriots guard Logan Mankins? (FILE:Icon/SMI)
For any fan who has followed this ongoing saga, the whole situation has just been a complete mess.  It all started with the fact that due to the uncapped year, Mankins missed out on free agency after the '09 season and found himself heading into the 2010 campaign as a restricted free agent.  At the time the Patriots gave him a 1st and 3rd round tender - the largest amount available to be given to a player - which was worth $3.268 million.  Had another team gone after him, it would have cost them a 1st and 3rd round draft choice.

To a certain extent, the tender was a bit of a formality considering that the goal appeared to be to try and hammer out a long-term contract to keep him in New England.  The team made him an offer, but he and his agent, Frank Bauer, rejected it.  According to the Boston Herald, the first offer was a six-year deal. That was reportedly followed by a seven-year deal at $45.5 million.  They’ve been stalemated ever since.

Bauer said that he and Mankins were looking for a deal commensurate with New Orleans’ Jahri Evans, which pays him $8.1 million per season.  Instead, the Pats final offer to Mankins reportedly came in at $6.5 million annually.

This left Bauer and Mankins furious, with the former 1st round pick demanding a trade last June, and the situation started to look pretty bleak.

“After the 2008 season, me and my agent approached the Patriots about an extension and I was told that Mr. Kraft did not want to do an extension because of the [uncertain collective bargaining agreement],” Mankins told ESPNBoston.com back on June 14th of last year. “I was asked to play ’09 out, and that they would address contract after the uncapped year. I’m a team player, I took them at word, and I felt I played out an undervalued contract.

“That’s the big thing,” he continued. “Right now, this is about principle with me and keeping your word and how you treat people. This is what I thought the foundation of the Patriots was built on. Apparently, I was wrong. Growing up, I was taught a man’s word is his bond. Obviously this isn’t the case with the Patriots.”

A month later Bauer told the Herald that the two sides hadn’t spoken, but that the door was still potentially open for a deal to get done.  Bauer also said that the uncertainty surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreement ‘turned everything sideways’, which at the time sounded plausible considering that they still needed to get a deal done with quarterback Tom Brady.

“I think any time the door opens, a deal can get done,” Bauer told the newspaper. “Look, I’m good friends with Bill (Belichick), I know Bob Kraft real well. But (labor) circumstances came out and turned everything sideways. … But you never know who is going to pick up a phone and say, ‘We need to get this thing done.’ But then again, I’ve been at this a long time. I’ve seen things. Logan’s a highly principled kid. You say one thing, do anything, things happen.”

Not much happened after that.  Mankins sat out all of training camp and held out to start the season, returning the week the Patriots took on the Cleveland Browns and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.  It cost him half of his tender amount, but he went on to have a Pro Bowl caliber season, and his attitude and nastiness on the field brought a much needed reinvigoration up front through the second half of the season.

However the Patriots were still being patient as they stuck to their stance of being in a ‘wait and see’ situation regarding the new CBA.  They designated Mankins with the franchise tag prior to the lockout, which guarantees him at least $10.1 million for this season, and issued a release that they hoped to get a deal done with him.

“Logan Mankins is a tremendous player…and he remains an important part of our future plans,” read the release. ”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.”

The move seemed to be designed to buy them some time to figure out what the new stipulations would be surrounding the new CBA, although there were many who felt that even though they had made similar comments during the Tom Brady negotiations, they still got his done.  Obviously that was their first priority, as Brady is clearly the key component to this football team in the coming years.

After watching his client play out the season and then be hit with the franchise tag, it left Bauer pretty upset, calling it a “travesty” for what the team was doing to their Pro Bowl guard.

”Everything with New England is built on leverage and using the system. Everything is leverage,” Bauer told the Herald back on February 24th. “This is one of the greatest guards they’ve had in the history of the place . . . John Hannah was the other one. I think it’s a travesty what they’ve done to the kid. There’s a lot of people in the NFL going, ‘How do you treat one of your great players this way.”

Throughout the negotiations there’s been a lot of public comments from Bauer, who really hasn’t helped the situation.  Looking back at many of the recent big contract deals with players on this football team, virtually none of them over the last decade have involved nearly the amount of public remarks that have come from Bauer.  It’s almost been a bit ridiculous.  Even after the media report of a "disconnect" during the Brady negotiations, neither Brady nor his agent ever made a public comment, and eventually a deal got done.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft sounded like he's hopeful Mankins will remain in New England. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
With Mankins sitting out to start the year, some reports emerged that the two sides had, once again, been close to a deal.  However, Kraft came out and shot that down, and admitted that he had spoken directly to Mankins.  He even admitted that Mankins had apologized for his earlier comments, which seemed to be a positive sign.

“I hate violating a private conversation but I think it’s worthy because it speaks to this issue that — I got a call three weeks go, maybe, something around that time, from Logan — and he apologized to me for the comments that he made in the public media,” Kraft explained during his interview.  ”He said that he regretted he did it. He knew in retrospect that they were not true. And I accepted his apology because he is a high quality guy.

“I also said to him, ‘You know Logan, it would be nice if that was made public because I’m hoping we do a deal with you. And I don’t want people to think that the way you do a deal is to say something that’s not true or involve ownership.’

Kraft said that Mankins admitted he felt bad and that he’d be willing to do it, and claimed he would do so in the event the team re-signed him, or even if he got traded elsewhere.

“He understood that and he said ‘Look, Mr. Kraft, I feel bad,” said Kraft. ”I will correct what I said either when I sign with the New England Patriots or if I get traded and sign somewhere else.’ And he said that ‘My hope and intention is that I’ll be a Patriot and go into the Patriots hall of fame.’ And I said the same thing to him. And then there’s been a negotiation but we have never had a deal.”

Those comments were before Mankins returned to have a Pro Bowl season.  Having been franchised, the last of this saga leaves he and his agent waiting for the new CBA to be implemented to see if negotiations continue, or if he'll simply be forced to play out the season before finally being granted his freedom to test the open market.

It’s going to be interesting to see how things progress in the coming weeks.  He’s still a plaintiff in the Brady antitrust case, with some even suggesting that Mankins could demand that he not be subject to the franchise tag in exchange for dropping the case.

Mankins isn’t stupid.  He’s got $10.1 million reasons not to create a PR nightmare by delaying the end of the lockout for the rest of the league, so that scenario seems unlikely.  The question now will be whether or not the Patriots will sit him down and make sure that he’ll be lining up in front of Brady for the foreseeable future. 

With the uncertainty surrounding Matt Light’s future and the addition of 1st round pick Nate Solder, it makes sense that the Patriots would view Mankins as part of the building blocks of the future of this football team.  Their number one goal should be to give Brady the best available protection in order to maximize his effectiveness each week, and clearly Mankins is the guy who makes the most sense.

He’s been durable.  Prior to the holdout he had never missed a practice or a game, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.  Belichick – and his teammates for that matter – have emphasized his work ethic as well as the fact he's a great teammate in the locker room.  When you take into account his physical attributes and his overall talent, the argument is certainly there that they need to figure out a way to keep him here.

With all the fluff and nonsense that Bauer has said throughout these negotiations, the one thing he’s been correct about is that Mankins is one of those guys who you can certainly equate to Hannah, and he’s one of those players that only comes around once in a generation.  He's one of the few offensive lineman we've seen completely destroy guys while blocking downfield, as well as the intensitiy and leadership he's shown since they drafted him.

Brady's certainly been vocal about the fact he hopes Mankins sticks around, which has been echoed by several other teammates.  If they’re unable to keep Light, it definitely makes sense to make sure the left side of the line has an experienced veteran to help bring along whoever moves into that role.

Needless to say, we’ll finally know the full “rules” surrounding this new CBA in the coming weeks.  Now the question will be whether or not this one sticking point truly ends up being the final piece of the puzzle for these two sides to get a deal done.

After being designated with the franchise tag, Mankins told the Herald earlier this year that he hadn’t ruled out a return to New England and that he'd worry about it once the CBA was resolved.

"There's always a possibility," said Mankins. "But to tell you the truth, I haven't given it much thought right now. If there was a CBA, I'm sure I'd be thinking about it a lot more."

Hopefully he’ll be thinking about it a bit more very soon.