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For Mankins, it might be time to accept the facts of life in the NFL

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  February 15, 2011 08:16 AM

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The rules are what they are, at least for now, and so Logan Mankins remains a member of the Patriots. Independent of the ongoing labor issue between NFL players and owners, the ultimate question will be whether Mankins can get past his bitterness and do what is best for both him and the team.

Use the franchise player tag to your advantage, Logan. Like Vince Wilfork, try to leverage it into the long-term deal you want. If you cannot, swallow some of your pride and embrace the fact that, for one year, you will be the highest-paid offensive guard in the league.

Purely for the sake of background, let us remind you that many of us despise the franchise player tag and deem it borderline unconstitutional. Nonetheless, the players long ago agreed to it. Mankins can gripe all he wants after the Patriots yesterday slapped the tag on him like a pair of handcuffs - platinum ones, albeit - but he can take that up with his union representatives and fellow players.

In the interim, assuming there is football, he is guaranteed a $10.1 million salary next season if he signs the franchise tender.

From a football perspective, the Patriots had little choice here. Despite a hugely disappointing performance against the New York Jets in the playoffs, the Pats went 14-2 and made huge strides. They are far better shape now than they were a year ago. The Pats have a cluster of free agents this offseason - most notably on the offensive line and in the backfield - and there is little doubt as to the order of importance.

Until yesterday, Tom Brady's blind side was entirely unprotected. Like Mankins, left tackle Matt Light was eligible for unrestricted free agency. To cut ties with both Mankins and Light would be downright foolish, and so the Patriots did exactly what they should have done.

They placed an obvious emphasis on the better player, Mankins, arguably the best player at his position in the league. In 2011, Mankins now will be paid as such. And while the money falls well short of what Mankins is seeking in terms of long-term, guaranteed money, he now has better leverage with the team than he did two days ago.

I'll take less money next year if you extend the contract and guarantee more over the long term.

For the sake of the relationship between the player and team, let's hope the Pats are being sincere when they say that a long-term deal with Mankins "remains our objective in utilizing the franchise designation and we are hopeful that Logan will be a Patriot for many years to come." We all have every right to be skeptical. Wilfork, for one, agreed to a long-term deal after the Pats franchised him last year, but the Pats also have failed in negotiations with other players (Asante Samuel, for one) after utilizing the franchise tag.

Whatever has happened between Mankins and the Patriots thus far - a soap opera that includes allegations of broken promises and demands for public apologies - Mankins needs to get past it if he wants to do what is best for him. If there is football in 2011, the Pats can franchise him again, albeit at a salary of roughly $12 million. The unfortunate truth is that Mankins cannot do a darned thing about it, no matter how much he threatens, and a holdout now will cost him a heck of a lot more than it did 2010.

The point: Any stubbornness on the part of Mankins now will hurt him as much (or more) than it will the Patriots. Pride is a tremendous quality for any person to possess, but it sometimes morphs into stupidity. Business is business. People lie and squeeze and push. None of us like it, but there comes a point where we all have to accept it.

For Mankins, that time appears to have come.

Of course, the ongoing labor issues between NFL players and owners are more than just a backdrop to this story. In two weeks, the existing contract between NFL players and owners and will expire. Yesterday, owners charged the players with unfair labor practices. Representatives for the players are now rightfully challenging everything, including the validity of the franchise tag. Their stance: how can teams possibly be allowed to franchise players today when they owners just opted out of a contract that will expire in two weeks?

Forget about sending in the lawyers. This thing is growing far more acrimonious and, as Robert Kraft suggested, "criminal" by the day. Send in the clowns. (Or is that the same thing?)

Nobody is suggesting that Mankins sign the franchise tender today. Obviously, amid the labor issues, that would be foolish and ill-advised. There is simply too much uncertainty and instability in the NFL at the moment. But if and when NFL players and owners reconcile their differences - and that will likely take a while - Logan Mankins needs to do the same with his employers.

Mankins doesn't need to forgive.

But he needs to forget.

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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