NEPD Staff Writer: Jason Cappell
It’s never easy for fans to say goodbye to one of their favorites. But for Patriots fans it’s a concept that certainly isn’t new. While Logan Mankins is one of the all-time great Patriot players, it’s clear that over the past few years his reputation exceeds his level of play.
Like many others before him, Mankins’ tenure with the Patriots came to an end because of his age and an inflated contract that no longer reflects the type of player he is.
There’s no doubt that Logan Mankins’ nine years with the Patriots were memorable. He lived up to everything the Patriots asked of him, and more, since they selected him 32nd overall in 2005. He was tough and durable, missing only 14 games in nine seasons. He did whatever the team asked of him, including filling in at Left Tackle last year when Nate Solder was hurt. Patriots’ fans know that Mankins is as tough as they come, and in 2011 that was made evident when he played through the majority of the season on a partially torn ACL.
But as the “Patriot Way” goes, football is a business and no single player trumps the greater good of the team. Though it remains to be seen whether Mankins can play at a high level in Tampa, it’s clear for the Patriots that at $10.5 million he was no longer worth it.
While Mankins proved to be an asset in the run game, his lateral movement continued to decline and as a result he struggled in pass-protection. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) Mankins allowed 11 sacks and 22 quarterback pressures over 18 games played last year. These numbers are far and above the worst of his career and simply don’t warrant the type of money he was set to make.
Although the news of Mankins departure is heart breaking to some, it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. Bill Belichick has never been afraid to make a bold move, and sending Mankins to the Buccaneers is just the latest example.
Belichick has always stressed that it’s better to get rid of a player a year early than a year too late. Time after time he gets the best years out of a player and then proceeds to deal them away just before age or injury becomes an issue. While Mankins is a six time Pro-Bowler and three-time Patriots captain, his better years are clearly behind him.
All in all trading Mankins is just another prime example of how the Patriots are one of the most business-like franchises in the NFL. While some teams allow their aging veterans to play out their lofty contracts, the Patriots don’t. You can call it coldblooded or heartless, but Bill Belichick has a different word for it; business.
The story is very simple. The Patriots wanted Logan Mankins to take a pay cut and Mankins respectfully declined, so New England took matters into their own hands. Since joining the Patriots in 2000 Belichick has made it clear that everyone is replaceable and if you aren’t willing to take one for the team he’ll have no problem finding someone else that will.
At the end of the day, whether fair or not, Belichick doesn’t care how many Pro Bowls you’ve been to, or how many times you’ve been named All-Pro. It might be ruthless, but it’s a formula that’s worked for the Patriots since day one. Each year he assesses his roster and questions whether everyone is playing well enough to justify their paycheck, and if not, how can the team make better use of that money elsewhere.
In Logan Mankins’ case the Patriots decided his salary was too rich for their liking and instead of making Mankins the 2nd highest paid Guard in the NFL they chose to trade him for versatile tight end Tim Wright and a 4th round draft pick. New England will instead continue to develop younger players with reasonable contracts, and as a result save more than $13 million in cap space over the next two seasons.
Whether it’s Jordan Devey, Marcus Cannon or Josh Kline that steps in at Left Guard, the drop off in talent shouldn’t be too noticeable. All three linemen have proved they’re capable of playing in the NFL and will continue to develop. Although it’s unlikely that any of them will ever turn out to be quite as talented as Mankins.
The truth is that managing cap space is vital in the NFL, and by trading Mankins the Patriots can make smarter financial investments such as long-term contracts for Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty.
The Patriots history of shedding salary and disposing veteran talent is well documented, but it clearly hasn’t stopped them from being successful. The Patriots have compiled a record of 163-61 in the Belichick era, winning three Super Bowls, five Conference Championships, and notching double-digit wins every year since 2003.
Throughout his entire Patriots tenure Belichick has stuck to his guns and never allowed a veteran’s salary to exceed their level of play, and the moment they do, that player is shown the door. Much like Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, Randy Moss and Mike Vrabel before him, Mankins suffered the same fate.Unlike other teams around the NFL, the Patriots aren’t sentimental towards their veterans, and don’t always make decisions to appease their fans. And like it or not, that’s why they’ve been good for so long.
Tags: Logan Mankins