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What’s next for the Patriots and Logan Mankins?

02.14.11 at 6:18 pm ET

The decision to place the franchise tag on Logan Mankins is the least surprising Patriots story of the year.

The Pro Bowl guard, who was designated as New England’€™s franchise player for 2011, will now receive a one-year guaranteed contract equal to the five highest-paid players at his position. There has been no official announcement as of yet, but according to ESPN’€™s Adam Schefter, the franchise offensive line number for 2011 is projected to be $10.1 million.

Oh, but if it were only that simple. First, in this contentious labor climate, the franchise tag as we know it might not even hold up. As we explained here earlier this month, the tag appears to be a sticking point between the players and owners. While the owners consider the franchise tag set in stone, the players association says that if there’€™s no new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the tag would be meaningless, creating an uncertain future for the Fresno State product.

If the franchise tag does hold up, what’€™s next? In Seinfeld parlance, in this relationship, the Patriots have hand. Mankins (who was clearly steamed about the prospect of being tagged earlier this year) is under contract for another season in New England, and there’€™s little he can do about it. The Patriots could also deal him, but there’€™s not much of a market for a guard who makes $10.1 million a year, even one of Mankins’€™ ability.

However, one thing that’€™s important to remember is that the tag given Mankins was reportedly non-exclusive, which gives him the option to try and negotiate a deal with other teams. That would certainly help facilitate a trade. It’€™s not easy ‘€” by rule, the price for franchised player is two first-round picks ‘€” but teams do have the option to negotiate, and it’€™s something New England has done on two other occasions.

In 2003, New England franchised Tebucky Jones, and then dealt him to New Orleans for an impressive haul ‘€” a seventh-round pick in that draft and a second- and fourth-round pick in the 2004 draft. It was also the case in 2009 when they franchised quarterback Matt Cassel, hitting him with the non-exclusive tag. That drama ended when Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel were dealt to Kansas City for a second-round pick in the 2009 draft that turned out to be Patrick Chung.

Two more options exist in the current system: First, the Patriots and Mankins could use the tag in the same fashion that they used with Vince Wilfork last year. Wilfork was in the same place Mankins is now ‘€” upset and angry about the prospect of being franchised. However, both sides negotiated in good faith, and when the tag was exercised, it was used in an attempt to keep the exclusive negotiating window open. (They did the same thing with kicker Adam Vinatieri in 2002 before agreeing to a three-year extension.)

Shortly after that, the defensive lineman agreed to a five-year extension. However, the two sides ‘€” at least publicly ‘€” didn’€™t project the same generally positive vibe on Monday that the Patriots and Wilfork displayed last season.

Two, the Patriots could use the franchise tag in the same way they did with cornerback Asante Samuel in 2007. That year, the two sides struck a handshake agreement that the team would not franchise Samuel if he played in 60 percent of the defensive snaps or the team won 12 games. Samuel easily met both requirements, and he signed a big deal with the Eagles in 2008 less than 24 hours after free agency began.

Read More: adam schefter, Asante Samuel, Logan Mankins, Matt Cassel



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