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Ask PFW: Mankins, mini-camp and more

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OK, what's the deal here? Mankins just totally made an ass out of himself. He said that [Patriots Owner Robert] Kraft said he would make a deal with him. Kraft offers him like 6.5 million a year but because its not 8 or 9 million a year Kraft and the Patriots are back stabbers. Is it me or did he take a massive ego pill? My question is what do we get for him player and pick or just pick? if he doesn't sign how's trade work etc.? PS -- you guys rock.Michael Donovan

The Logan Mankins contract situation clearly took a surprising turn for the ugly on Monday when the Pro Bowl guard asked to be traded and made some pretty inflammatory statements about the New England franchise and its way of doing business. Is the divide between the sides now irreparable? It certainly looks that way. Although I've read all the same reports everyone else has, I do not know exactly what type of contract was offered to Mankins, what he turned down or what, exactly, he's looking for. It does seem that he and his agent, Frank Bauer, are using Saints RFA guard Jahri Evans' recent seven-year, $56 million deal as, like they'd say in real estate, a comp. If he really was offered a "legit" deal averaging $7 million a season, then I'm surprised something couldn't be hammered out and things got so ugly. But my guess is that Mankins' camp doesn't feel like they've been offered a "legit" deal. That's the way these negotiations work, two sides can see the same offer very differently. As for the technical aspects of a possible trade, Mankins could be traded under his RFA tender just as Brandon Marshall was earlier this spring. But he would clearly have already worked out a long-term deal with the team he's being traded to for any deal to take place. That, I think, hurts his trade value for New England. Not only would a team have to give up a player or a draft pick to get the Pro Bowler, but it would have to hand him $50 million. That could make a deal, if the Patriots want to find one, a bit tricky. It may have to be something like trading one team's issue for another's. How about sending Mankins to the Chargers for unhappy RFA wide receiver Vincent Jackson? Just an idea that I'm throwing out there. In the end I've always liked Mankins. I think he's a top-end offensive lineman, a hard worker and a good teammate. He's never missed a game. He does his job. I'm stunned that these negotiations have come to this and that he said what he said. But I also don't think he says things like this simply to posture in the media or try to spur negotiations. I think he's a man of his word, as he said, and is legitimately upset. This isn't like Ty Law trying to feed his family one week then walking into camp a little while later and saying, "What's up Bill?" Mankins is a beast of a different nature. The way it looks now, it's hard to imagine he and the Patriots simply working things out and calling this mess water under the bridge. But stranger things have happened in the NFL before.
Andy Hart

I realize the Mankins situation has been addressed here but there are some questions that still remain. Does Tom Brady's contract affect Mankins' contract? Can we afford them both? Is this O-line significantly worse without him? What would his trade value be, and would there be teams willing to trade for him? In your opinion, would you trade him or pay him market value? Thanks.
Jesse M.

I think this question was actually answered last week, but still wanted to weigh in with my own opinions. On some level, the Brady and Mankins situations are related. Like the rest of us, the Patriots do have some sort of budget to work with. You can't spend all your money on one thing, and neither can the team. I do think it's possible to keep both and think I would probably go the route of signing extensions with both players. (There's no way I'd let Brady come close to leaving, but that's another answer for another day.) Contracts come on and off the books every year, so it's just a matter of fitting all the pieces together. The cost of doing business these days with a top guard is around $50 million. Mankins is a two-time Pro Bowl guard. So he's probably be looking for that kind of dough and clearly using Jahri Evans' deal as a measuring stick. I do think he's the Patriots best offensive lineman, a great worker and a very good teammate. As I've said in the past, he's a lot like Vince Wilfork in that he's seemingly the type of player the Patriots want on and off the field. As was the case with No. 75, they'll have to pay to keep No. 70. As for a trade, I think Mankins' value would be limited a bit in that whatever team traded for him would also have to give him the big contract. That's a lot to give up, especially for a guard. My guess would be you would struggle to get even as much as a second-round pick for him. But that's just a guess. So I'd pay the man and make him the core of my offensive line just as Wilfork is on the defensive side. My only fear would be that in doing so you'd be spending a lot of money on seemingly glamour-less positions like nose tackle and guard when you might need to spend some coin down the road at more marquee playmaking spots like wide receiver, running back, pass rusher or elsewhere. But that's a small fear, and not as great as the fear I'd have of letting the perfect Patriots type player like Mankins walk away unhappy and in doing so potentially upsetting the apple cart that's left behind. Of course at this point it may be too late for that. We'll see how this all shakes down.
Andy Hart

I am wondering what dates are set for fans to be at training camp. I'm dying to get there and cheer them on! Thank you.
Karen

The exact dates for training camp have not yet been announced. It will begin sometime during the last week of July at Gillette Stadium. Please check Patriots.com regularly for the announcement of specific training camp dates and practice schedules for that week and the first couple weeks of August.
Andy Hart

Can U explain the Military Reserve and how and when it's used?
Robert Bumgardner

The list is used for any player who is actively involved with the Armed Forces, and therefore cannot play out his NFL contract. The contract is essentially tolled, as the player is not paid and does not count against a team's roster limit. The team can then activate the player and, if it chooses, expect him to play out the terms of the contract at whatever time he completes his military commitments. The Patriots currently have three players from the Navy on their Reserve/Military list: WR Tyree Barnes, WR Shun White and RB Eric Kettani.
Andy Hart

Love PFW, you guys are awesome, especially Andy. My question is in regards to the O-Line. On Thursday's PFW in Progress, you briefly touched on Matt Light not being present at OTA's that day and Vollmer taking reps at LT. It has been widely reported that Light "cannot" play RT, but if, hypothetically, Coach Belichick (and I suppose the offensive line coach as well, whose name I would spell but would butcher in the process) sees that Vollmer is a superior LT and that LeVoir or whomever is a solid replacement for him at RT, where does Light really fit into the team's plan? Over and over I have heard that the key to longevity in the NFL is being able to play as many positions as possible to be as useful as possible; why should Light – or any other veteran for that matter - be treated differently? It seems hypocritical to implore upon the younger guys that they need to be versatile when here is a team veteran who apparently can't even play both sides of the line and may not even be the best player on the team at his position and yet is (likely) going to get a starting spot anyway. How do you see this shaking out? As far as I can see, the LT position is Matt Light's to lose – but what if Vollmer proves the better choice in training camp? Do you see it happening? And if it did, what is your best guess on how BB would handle that situation? I ask only because I see it as a highly probable occurrence given how well Vollmer has done so far – and how much Light's play has declined in recent years. As always, thank you for all you do and keep up the great work!
Kristen Branch

Clearly we have the best email of the week! Cheap flattery will get you anywhere you want with me. Thanks for reading, Kristen. I think the bottom line on the offensive line is that the Patriots most talented overall lineup includes both Light and Vollmer. Since Light, as you put it, "cannot" play right tackle that would seem to leave him on the left side with Vollmer taking the right side for one more year. We have to remember, that Light has played left tackle for the last 14 years or so dating back to his time at Purdue. He's been a pass blocking left tackle for Tom Brady and Drew Brees. That's probably what he is at this point. You know about old dogs and new tricks. Overall I always thought Light was a good but not great left tackle. While I do think that Vollmer may have an impressive career ahead of him, I don't think Light is the stiff some people seem to make him out to be at this point. I think he was overrated when he was an All-Pro and now is underrated as he's cast as the aging bum people are ready to kick to the curb. As I said, I think the Patriots best group of five offensive linemen for 2010 includes Light. Due to the circumstances of the situation, that likely means he'll be playing left tackle.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, love what you guys do every week. So I was watching NFL Network and saw that the Rams will be retiring the #80 jersey in honor of Isaac Bruce. So I was wondering about teams retiring numbers. Tell me what you think. There is always guys who will deserve to get their number retired (Brady, Manning, etc) but teams are staying away from that because the number of jerseys will diminish. So do you think it would be a good idea to retire that player's number for say.....5 or 10 years after that players retires. And after that time, have that number come back. Thanks and keep the great work up.
Edgar Paz

I think the retirement of numbers is a little tricky. Clearly a guy like Brady should and likely will have his number retired. Beyond that, I think it's enough to put a guy in a team Hall of Fame or Ring of Honor. I don't think there is a need for any type of short window of retiring a jersey. I think that might feel sort of cheap. Plus, many teams do that in an unofficial manner by simply not giving out the number for a few years after a guy retires. I believe the Patriots have done that with some numbers in the past. Do you see a No. 54 on this year's roster? No. Anyway, I think truly elite stars will still have their numbers retired. The rest will get whatever other type of honor they deserve.
Andy Hart

Hey guys at PFW you guys rock I always look forward to this. Assuming Welker comes back mid-season or earlier, and Torry Holt is there solidifying the slot WR position, and the defense plays as good, perhaps slightly better than last season (which is what every Pats fan is holding their breath for), how many games do you think the Pats will win next season? As you must already know, they have the 6th hardest schedule in 2010. Thanks a lot. Take care!
David Guerra

I think the 2010 Patriots could be in the same sort of position the team was last fall. That's in line to win somewhere around 10 games and play on Wild Card Weekend. The schedule is not easy. The team has a lot of question marks at a variety of positions, including starting jobs and contributing roles that are very much up for grabs. If those chips all fall in the positive, then maybe a dozen wins wouldn't be out of the question. If too many of those "ifs" go for the negative, then watch out. Most likely, some ifs go for the better and some go for worse. And that could/should lead to somewhere in the range of 10 wins.
Andy Hart

So these rookies who have been signing contracts, what happens if they don't end up making the team? Do they get any guaranteed money or does it all depend on if they make the team? Thanks.
Miranda Good

Clearly, Miranda, it's well within your rights to ask such a Good question. I'll do my best to answer it and not remain silent on this topic. Most NFL contracts are not guaranteed, save for signing bonus money. That's true of these rookie deals. The players get signing bonuses that grow smaller as you work your way down the draft order. The lower the pick, the lower the bonus money. The rest has to be earned. It's not much different than veteran contracts. Players' salaries have to be earned on a yearly basis. No play, no pay. It's the NFL way. (I just made that up. You like it?)
Andy Hart

Hi Guys. I have to read your stuff every week. It's like my air supply, especially during the off season. I have three major questions. One: Do you think Bill O'Brien has the ability to be more unpredictable with his play calling? Spreading out with Brady in the shotgun on every short yardage situation just tells everyone what's going to happen. Maybe better options at TE will help this year. Second: Do you think they will find a pass rush? I believe very strongly that no matter how good your secondary is, if you can't pressure the QB they WILL get burnt. And third: It seemed to me that games were lost in the 4th quarter because injuries to key members of the front 7 prevented them from being able to rotate fresh legs into the game, and I wondered if the intensity of last year's training camp was a factor in some way. Do you think Coach Bill might ease up a tiny bit this summer? Or will he go harder, thinking that they need to be in better condition? Thanks so much for providing this fix for my Patriots addiction.
Howard Wolfe

I have always been a Bill O'Brien supporter. I think he has a good background, good style and will only become a better playcaller with more chances to perfect the craft. I also think he may have a bit more to work with this year with the potential (the key word being potential) of more depth and versatility at both wide receiver and tight end. We'll see, but I have no problem with O'Brien and his role with the team. I'm less optimistic about the pass rush. I do believe that the secondary should be better, but I'm just not sure I see where the pass rush will come from. I actually think there is a chance you could lose a little something off Tully Banta-Cain's career year. Who else can you count on? Will Shawn Crable finally do something? Can Jermaine Cunningham contribute from Day 1? Right now the pass rush has a lot of questions and not many proven answers. As such I can't offer up many answers on the spot, either. Finally, I don't see Belichick easing up any time soon. If anything I think you might see him come down even harder (including training camp practices with the Saints and Falcons) on his young, unproven, developing roster of talent. He simply doesn't have the type of experienced, veteran roster that you can let flip the switch in the regular season. The true battle and competition begins in July and August for a Patriots team that will be searching for leadership, chemistry and an identity in 2010. None of those things come easy.
Andy Hart

Hey PFW, just starting wondering who would you say is a better football player in general? Troy Brown or Wes Welker?
Josh Pales

This is a great and surprisingly timely question. We actually ran a story comparing Welker and Brown in the latest Patriots Football Weekly that's on newsstands now. (Call 1-800-494-PATS or go to PFWonline.com to order you subscription!) Clearly both guys are tremendous athletes, determined competitors and elite playmakers when it matters most. At this point I have to give the nod to Brown. He did it in a greater variety of ways in New England than Welker has. Brown was a 100-catch receiver, an elite playmaker in the return game and even a contributor on defense. He, literally, could do it all. Welker is also a returner, but hasn't had the big-play, championship winning success in that area that Brown has. He's been a more productive receiver, but some of that's come thanks to a man named Randy Moss who very well could have helped No. 80 had he come to New England a bit earlier. I think Troy Brown is one of the most versatile athletes and timely playmakers this, or any team, has ever seen. At this point, my nod goes to Troy over Wes. But Wes' story in New England, including what could be a surprisingly quick return from a major knee injury, is far from over. This comparison could heat up even more in the years to come. Clearly, though, the two receivers have, as Erik Scalavino's PFW feature says, "Slots in Common."
Andy Hart

How have Shawn Crable and Jermaine Cunningham factored into the lineup in OTAs? Can you see either one of them opening up the season as a starter?
Sam Frankel

As always, Sam, let me be Frank-el. I don't think you can really take much from the OLB rotation that's been taking place in OTA workouts. I've seen more combinations, groupings and rotations than I can remember. Nothing, that I'd be willing to pencil in on a depth chart at this point, never mind put in pen. I don't have a lot of hope for Crable at this point. I just have never seen him do much. Even when he hasn't been hurt, which hasn't been too often, I don't think he's showed this incredible potential that his theoretically ideal framed might dictate. He looks the part. I don't hold much hope he'll ever fill it. I am very much intrigued by Cunningham. He's obviously young, but I think he has the tools to do everything that's required at the position. In an ideal world I do think he'd be the opening day starter at one of the OLB spots. But we have a long way to go to get to that point and I won't put that type of expectation on him at this point. Color me intrigued and let's leave it at that.
Andy Hart

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