The media battle between Logan Mankins and the New England Patriots front office has left both sides with a bad taste in their mouth. What better way to wash that taste out than to sign a $10.1 million franchise tender?
Yes, Mankins' gripes with the Patriots have been storied, but according to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, he will sign his franchise tender.
Now that he's back in the fold for at least the 2010 season, what's next for the Patriots?
Even before Mankins signed the tender, the Pro Bowl guard's status with the team was in a tight race with Matt Light as the most important issues on the Patriots' docket for the 2011 offseason. The Patriots may still want to work out a long-term deal with Mankins, but they have until September 20 to do so.
For now, the immediate point of interest shifts to Light.
When the Patriots drafted Nate Solder in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft, they did two things:
1. The Patriots gave themselves a huge bargaining chip in negotiations with Light.
2. The Patriots set themselves up with a long-term option at left tackle. This is important because even if the team is able to retain Light, his days on the field are numbered.
On the first point, that "bargaining chip" may very well be what drives Light out of town. He will be much more likely to find good money elsewhere, as there are at least a pair of teams that could use a Pro Bowl left tackle to make a push at a Super Bowl (Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs immediately come to mind).
On the second, it is widely believed that Solder will need some time to develop in order to become a solid starting option at left tackle. Keeping Light around would not only give Solder a great mentor to learn from, but also would give the Patriots insurance against Solder's readiness to start.
The Patriots might be foolish to risk Tom Brady's blind side with a rookie, and in terms of the chemistry factor, no player has been as important to Brady's success as Light. The two have been a team for 10 years, and they have developed a rhythm that would be nearly impossible to replicate in one (shortened) offseason.
That being said, Light and Solder aren't the only options at left tackle. There's the possibility of sliding Sebastian Vollmer over to left tackle, where he filled in for an injured Light in 2009. That would mean that the Patriots would have to bring back Nick Kaczur, even at a price they may not like.
With all that in mind, while it would be ideal for the Patriots to find a way to keep Light for one more year, that option may be out of the question. The Patriots have proven in the past that they will not overpay for any player, regardless of what that player has meant to the team in the past.
That being said, there are at least a couple of other teams that could get into a bidding war over Light; a bidding war that it is highly unlikely the Patriots will partake in.
Figuring out the shaky situation on the offensive line was priority No. 1 for the Patriots this offseason, and they have taken a step in the right direction now that Mankins has agreed to sign his franchise tender and to appear at training camp. Still, the situation at left tackle needs to be addressed in the immediate future.
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