The Logan Mankins situation is beginning to make the Patriots dealing with Asante Samuel in 2007 look upbeat. For those that don't remember, after leading the NFL in Interceptions in 06', Samuel became a restricted free agent and rather than lock up their franchise cornerback, the Pats played hardball. Samuel was handed the franchise tag, and preceded to hold out until he was giving assurances that if he signed the franchise tender, he would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 07' season.
He did, and left to sign a lucrative contract with the Eagles, the Patriots had been trying to replace his presence. A presence that if Devin McCourty hadn't played like he did as rookie, they'd still be looking for.
Now the same situation appears to be playing out with All-Pro Left Guard Logan Mankins. Mankins who was already giving the franchise tag last year, sat out eight weeks this past season, before returning in Week 9 against the Cleveland Browns. Still, with half the season gone, Mankins was named to the Pro Bowl, and it's there he's letting the media know he doesn't think he'll be in a Patriots uniform next year.
In a column in today's Boston Herald by Karen Guregian, Mankins is quoted.
“I would never say the door is totally shut,’’ Mankins said, when asked to clarify his remarks. “But the way it’s looking right now, I don’t see it happening. I don’t see them trying to keep me, unless it’s with the franchise tag.’’
The fact that it has gotten to this point is ridiculous. Mankins is clearly one of the if not the best guard in the NFL. He played out his rookie contract, and for some unknown reason, the Patriots appear unwilling to lock up the anchor of their O-line to the long-term contract he deserves. An offensive line that also sees Left Tackle Matt Light heading to free agency, injury prone right guard Stephen Neal in his last year, and the only upside is young right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is signed up for the near future.
The Patriots can't afford to lose Mankins. There's no one "waiting in the wings" to replace the All-Pro. Dan Connolly had the great moment of returning the kickoff against Green Bay, but replacing an injured Neal, saw Connolly get manhandled in the Playoffs by Shaun Ellis. Former starting RT Nick Kaczur will be back next year, but does anyone expect him to fill the void a Mankins loss would create?
The Patriots almost seem to enjoy playing games with Mankins. If not for NFL-NFLPA CBA entering its final year last year, Mankins would have been a unrestricted free agent instead of restricted, and when he called the Patriots liars, he had to apologize, but it still didn’t get one of the League’s most prominant guards a new contract.
With Mankins leading the line, Benjarvus Green-Ellis was able to run for 1,000 yards with 13 TD's, and Danny Woodhead was able to average 5.6 yards a carry, but no, let Mankins walk, and then spend another three years trying to replace him.