|Is the relationship between Logan Mankins and the Patriots finally thawing?||07.26.11 at 7:13 pm ET|
Tuesday’s news that Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins will sign his franchise tender and report to training camp this week should be taken as positive news — the first good news in a long time when it comes to the relationship between the franchise and the player.
Mankins and the Patriots have spent much of the last year sniping at each other, but Mankins’ agent Frank Bauer talked of a “fresh start” when he discussed the tender — worth $10.116 million for one season, according to the NFL Network — with ESPN Boston on Tuesday.
“Early this morning, Logan spoke with (coach) Bill (Belichick) and both are very happy, happy to get started. Logan is looking forward to being with his teammates and coaches, with a fresh start,” Bauer told ESPN Boston.
In a relationship that’s been one of the worst between a high-profile player and agent in New England in recent memory, Bauer’s words are tantamount to a verbal bouquet. The enmity between the two sides is familiar ground for most Patriots fans: Mankins was set to become a restricted free agent last offseason, which was the result from the NFL going from a salary cap year in 2009 to an upcapped year in 2010. But he made it clear in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want to sign the $3.26 million tender, and he held out for the first half of the season because of it. There was talk of lying, an apology and further bitterness, especially after the Patriots cut his tender to $1.54 million, which ended up being prorated over the final nine games of the season once he did return.
“I’ve heard there’s this thing in football called free agency,” he told reporters this past spring, his tongue firmly in his cheek. “It’s been two years now [since my contract expired], and I haven’t seen it. Maybe one of these days I could actually experience that.”
Not to be overly optimistic about things, but the fact that Mankins plans on being in camp and signing his tender could be the first sign that things have started to thaw between the two sides. Truth be told, given the recent history between the player and the franchise, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the Fresno State product chose not sign the tender, not report to camp on time, and continue to push for a long-term deal. But now, Mankins has now set himself up for a contract extension or unrestricted free agency, while the Patriots have themselves a Pro Bowl offensive lineman for at least one more season.
Regardless of what the future holds, the two sides have until Sept. 20 to work out a long-term contract, per the new labor deal. By then, we should know if Tuesday’s news truly is a “fresh start,” or the beginning of the end of Mankins’ time in Foxboro.
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