On Monday, Logan Mankins opted not to sign his restricted free agent tender, and instead asked that the Patriots trade him. Assuming this isn't just talk from the Pro Bowl guard (Mankins still has until 11:59 p.m. EDT Monday night to change his mind and sign), the the Patriots can (and most likely will) lower the tender offer to $1.54 million -- 110 percent of his 2009 salary.
Mankins' decision leaves the Patriots in a tough spot, as Mike Reiss detailed at ESPN Boston on Saturday before this all went down. Reduce his salary, and New England runs the risk of hurting the team's " 'locker-room chemistry' momentum they created this offseason by aggressively re-signing their own free agents." Reiss added that "the smart decision is to keep Mankins' tender at $3.26 million."
But at this point, it looks like that won't happen. So what now for the Patriots? Can they just lose one of the best offensive lineman in the league? Jeff Howe at NESN.com has some answers.
OPTION NO. 1: PAY THE MAN: The Pats could just suck it up, admit they were wrong and pay that man his money. However, do that and "they'll break the hard-line precedent they've tried to establish over the last decade -- one which has drawn plenty of criticism from the players who have moved on from New England."
OPTION NO. 2: TRADE THE MAN: This is what Mankins demanded on Monday, and the Pats could probably get good value for him. After all, he's only 28, and still at the peak of his career. It is likely that the Pats could trade him and bolster some holes on the team, like "a defensive playmaker, a marquee running back or a couple of quality draft picks." But, do that and then the team is "allowing the player to dictate his terms, and that's something else the Patriots have tried to avoid in the past."
OPTION NO. 3: DO NOTHING AT ALL, MAN: New England still owns his rights, so really, they still have all the power. They could just do nothing and wait for him to play at some point in 2010, which he'll have to do if wants to avoid losing a year of NFL service and have to go through all of this stuff again next year.
So which is the best option?
At this point, because of his value, it really might be in the Patriots' best interests to explore a trade. This is a team that has some holes, and this could give them an opportunity to address some of those needs. By letting Mankins sit out, they'd only create more question marks on the field going forward
And a trade might not be too devastating to the Patriots' line. Mankins' absence from the team this offseason has allowed them to workout other players at the position: Dan Connolly, Nick Kaczur and rookie Ted Larsen, who is being moved from center to guard.
Did the Patriots shoot themselves in the foot by low-balling Mankins from the beginning of this process? Probably. But it's past that point now, and the team needs to either just pay him or trade him. But with Mankins' earlier comments, particularly the bits about how he feels he was mistreated and that the Patriots, Robert Kraft included, went against their word, it may be too late to make this all go away with more millions in the bank. Seeing him in a Patriots uniform anytime soon does not seem likely.