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Ask PFW, First of Summer Edition

In this week's mailbag, Logan Mankins is the main subject.


After reading [Logan] Mankins' statement, I just had to ask the PFW brain trust: Is Mankins suffering from a concussion? Why would he call Robert Kraft a liar and argue that "Mr. Kraft said that they would address the contract after the uncapped year?" The CBA's not in place yet, and the uncapped year hasn't happened yet! He's digging a hole that he's just going to have to fill back in – and he made it a deep one.
Rem DaCosta

We raised an eyebrow, too, when we first read the statement because it sounded as if Mankins had misspoken. However, the next day, we also noticed that, which broke the story, had been amended the quote in question. The word "during" replaced "after," which made the sentence somewhat more logical. We are, in fact, in the midst of the uncapped year, and, if the media reports are true, the team did technically address Mankins' contract issue when he said they said they would – during the uncapped year.

He obviously isn't happy with the reported offer or the pace of negotiations, but I agree with your premise, Rem. Mankins didn't do himself any favors by coming out so strongly against the owner and the organization. I'm not a fan of burning bridges, or of airing one's dirty laundry in public. Was this a reactionary move by Mankins and his camp, or a calculated one? The answer is unclear, though I believe he meant what he said. I think you're right, though. This hole Mankins has dug for himself might be too big out of which to climb.
Erik Scalavino

Mankins for Haynesworth? Each disgruntled. Redskins line is a mess. Snyder would pay Mankins his ridiculous asking price. But would Bill want to go 4-3 to keep Big Al happy, and would this then alienate Vince. I'm no expert, but it seems like Vince next to Haynesworth would be a powerful combo. At least on paper.
Adam Hall

Short answer: no. Long answer: nnnnooooooooooooo.

Seriously, when can you recall Belichick doing anything simply to make one of his players happy. Have you not payed any attention for the past decade? The closest example I can think of is 2007, when he completely revamped the receiving corps to mollify Tom Brady … but Belichick understand that this would benefit his team first, and Brady's frame of mind second.

Acquiring Haynesworth would mean having to acquiese to his demands, which are simply (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Pay me way too much money and stick me in a 4-3." Hmm … for some inexplicable reason, the words "team player" don't instantly come to mind when I hear that.

Haynesworth is a difference-maker on the field, no denying it. And his recent statement talked about "playing to his strengths" (i.e., he favors the 4-3) and being a team-first kind of player. I don't buy any of it. He's greedy, self-absorbed, and a malcontent (I won't even mention the kick to the head he gave to a defenseless Dallas player a few years back … remember that?). Ultimately, those latter qualities make him undesirable to New England.
Erik Scalavino

Does [Nick] Kaczur have the ability, in your opinion(s), to step up and fill Mankins' role on the team? Have to say I agree with Erik that he won't be able to mend things with the Pats. He's no off-the-cuff talker like Ty Law – if he says he wants out, I believe he won't settle for less then a trade. How will the team move on at the LG position?

Good question, Kristen. We've seen Kaczur play both tackle spots in his New England career, to varying degrees of effectiveness. And in a few practices this spring, he's stepped in on a rotational basis at left guard. It's difficult to gauge with any certainty how good he'll be based simply on his work in a handful of no-pads workouts. However, I think he has enough of the necessary tools to do an adequate job there. He's fairly mobile for a guy his size, plus I believe he has the football smarts to handle the change of responsibilities. I'll be very curious to see how this transition plays out during training camp and the preseason.

If it fails, the Patriots will probably turn to one of their backup lineman, with Dan Connolly having the advantage at this point, in my estimation. He certainly has the skills to play any interior line position and gained valuable playing experience last season. We know he can move around in space, too, having lined up as a fullback and blocking tight end in various short-yardage packages a year ago. Rich Ohrnberger and rookie Ted Larsen will get their chances to impress, too. So, while the team will certainly miss having a Pro Bowler on the o-line, I don't think they'll suffer too much without Mankins.
Erik Scalavino

What do you think are the chances of Mankins being traded for a player vs. a draft pick?
Dan F.

If I were an oddsmaker, I'd put the number at 30-70. I don't think it's out of the question to expect the Patriots to try to fill a roster hole in any Mankins deal, but it's more likely they'll settle for a high draft pick or picks, probably a second-rounder, at the very least, and perhaps another, say a third or fourth in a later draft.
Erik Scalavino

I have seen where a number of people (both fans and PWF writers) have said that Light cannot play the right side. My question is why do you think that? One of Light's biggest weaknesses is the speed rush and that would seem to be mitigated on the right side.
Tim Cullen

Well, here's the direct quote, in its entirety, from Bill Belichick, when asked about Light's capabilities at right tackle, during his daily press conference on November 20, 2009.

Q: Is Matt Light capable of playing right tackle?*
BB: Well, that's where I brilliantly put him when we drafted him and he's played left tackle ever since. Had I not put him at right tackle in the first place, he probably would have been a lot better off. He came in, we put him at right tackle. He hurt his ankle in preseason, and then we ended up moving him back to left tackle and he basically started most of his rookie year there at left tackle. I mean, he got hurt in the Super Bowl and all that. But had I put him at left tackle in the first place instead of right tackle, he probably would have had a better rookie year. Did we think he could play right tackle? Yeah, but I think he's a better left tackle than he is right tackle. And that's the case of a player flipping sides, I'm not saying he can't do it but I think he's better on the left side. Nick, on the other hand, was a left tackle in college all the way through. The first thing we would do was put him over there at right tackle and he's done well there. Last year, we got into a bind, and a couple of previous years we got into a bind and we moved Nick back to left tackle. He truly has played both, but again until sometimes that happens you don't really know. Could Matt play right tackle? I'm sure that he could, but he's done a lot better at left tackle.*

OK, so, reading between the lines here … Light can't play right tackle. Not on a Bill Belichick team, anyway. When Bill uses words like "brilliantly" in a facetious way, that means the opposite is true. When he uses the past tense – as in "Did we think he could play right tackle?" – that means he no longer does. Of course, he gives himself some wiggle room by concluding with "Could Matt play right tackle? I'm sure that he could …" Translation: I'm sure that he could for some other team and some other coach.
Trust us. We're fluent in Belichickian.

Furthermore, Light, I don't believe, has any interest in playing on that side. It's a mindset thing with him at this point in his career. He's played the premier position on the o-line for virtually his entire football career and he's not going to surrender it now. When a player adopts that posture, there's no point forcing him to do otherwise. He's just not going to give it his all. Bill probably realizes this, which is why he won't switch him over, even if Sebastian Vollmer is the better player.

In a twisted way, Light actually may benefit from Mankins' situation. By having Kaczur play left guard (assuming he wins the job full-time), that doesn't give the Patriots the luxury of moving Vollmer to left tackle and keeping Kaczur on the right. Light is no longer expendable, at least for 2010, which is the final year of Light's contract. If Mankins doesn't return, that virtually guarantees that Light will remain in New England for this season. After that? Light probably moves on, and Vollmer moves to left tackle.
Erik Scalavino

How can the Patriots conclude big-ticket contracts with Brady and Mankins when they have no idea what the parameters of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will be for future years? For these jumbo sized contracts, I would think they would need to know the rules in order to be prudent and stay competitive going forward. Wilfork's contract was up so Pats had no choice but to agree to a contract or lose him, but Mankins and Brady are still obligated for 1 more year – from a business point of view they shouldn't expect a big pay day until the CBA is known. Don't they realize that? it seems Brady may privately, but Mankins seems to completely ignore that??Andrew Yarumian

The uncertainty of the collective bargaining agreement clearly is having an effect on contract talks around the league. And that's clearly what owners are telling players and their agents. There are truths that will remain absolute, however, including the fact that the best players will be paid extraordinary amounts of money. Brady will get his. So will Mankins, whether from this club or another, if guards like Jahri Evans and Alan Faneca keep receiving the ridiculous sums they've been given of late. Teams will overpay for players when the market sets and raises the ceiling.

Also, in case you've forgotten, we're working in an uncapped year, so many players might hope to cash in in the short term before any new rules are agreed to between the union and the league. Look at your own example, the Wilfork deal. It's a long-term contract, which means it will still be in place during any future CBA. But he's getting a big chunk of that early in the form of guaranteed dollars. It's not surprising that other players might want similar deals.

As I've stated, here and on last week's Debate Friday, I don't understand what Mankins is doing with regard to the Patriots. But let's get one thing straight: Mankins is under no obligation whatsoever to play one more year in New England. His five-year contract has expired. He refuses to sign his tender offer, at this point, which he is within his rights to do. He can sit out the 2010 season, if that's what he wants and he isn't traded before then.

As for Brady, do you really want him to become a free agent just because there's currently no new CBA in place? If that happens, I guarantee he won't be taking any so-called "hometown discounts" to stay in New England. Especially not now that he's in a leadership role in the players union.
Erik Scalavino

What about a quick, 6-foot-6 edge rusher with 7.5 sacks from a championship team? I think he is worth a look. Bobby McCray is youngish (28). He knows what it is to lose, he knows what it is to win. I think he would be an upgrade to Burgess. I am not sure if he can convert to OLB, but a speed rusher who is 6'6 seems to fit BB's style. What do you all think?
Michael S.

On Monday the Saints released Bobby McCray … haven't seen any film of him so I want to hear what you at PFW think of him, and the possibility of becoming a New England Patriot.
Eirik from Somerville

I'm intrigued. I wonder, though, why the Saints felt the need to upgrade their left defensive end position by bringing in the likes of Alex Brown (Chicago) and Jimmy Wilkerson (Tampa Bay) in free agency. What don't they like about McCray, who appears to be in the prime of his career. Perhaps is was simply a money issue. He was scheduled to earn a reported $3.25 million in base salary and roster bonuses this season. Maybe the Patriots would be willing to give the 6-6, 260-pounder a shot, at much less money, and try him at outside linebacker. We don't watch Saints games with any regularity, of course, but from what we've seen, New Orleans used him mainly as a speed rusher, and he does get to the quarterback in spurts. His best season was 2006, when, as a Jaguar, he recorded 10 sacks. He's had a total of 7.5 sacks in two seasons with New Orleans, and just 1.5 last year. I'd be willing to give him a look, however.
Erik Scalavino

Hey guys great work I love reading your insights on the team! I was wondering if dates and times have been set for training camp and if if you have to purchase tickets for it? Thanks!
Sam Bannister

Good time to promote the PFW blog (a convenient link is provided on the homepage) … I posted last week that the team has announced the official starting date of this year's camp. It's Thursday, July 29. That's all the info we have at the moment, sadly. We'll have more details in mid-July, we're told. But we do know that, as in years past, training camp practices that are open to the public are free of charge. So, when the schedule is announced, just show up and look for a spot in the bleachers or on the grass in the allowed areas surrounding the fields.
Erik Scalavino

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