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Mankins tagged by Patriots

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / February 15, 2011

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In a move that was wholly expected and likely won’t be well-received by the designee, the Patriots yesterday designated left guard Logan Mankins as their franchise player for next season.

Mankins will receive a one-year, guaranteed contract equal to the average of the five highest-paid players at his position. There has not been a firm number released on what that amount will be for 2011, but it will be around $10.1 million. In 2010, the number for offensive linemen was $10.7 million.

Mankins was given the non-exclusive tag, meaning he can negotiate with other teams and potentially seek a trade. By rule, the cost of signing a franchise player away from his original team is two first-round picks, but teams can work out trades with different terms.

“Logan Mankins is a tremendous player,’’ the Patriots said in a statement. “He has been a fixture on our offensive line since we drafted him in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft and he remains an important part of our future plans. Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach a long-term agreement, despite many attempts and proposals by both sides. That remains our objective in utilizing the franchise designation and we are hopeful that Logan will be a Patriot for many years to come.’’

In 2009, the Patriots franchised free agent quarterback Matt Cassel and then traded him (and Mike Vrabel) to Kansas City for a second-round pick. In 2003, the team franchised safety Tebucky Jones and then traded him to New Orleans for second-, fourth-, and seventh-round picks.

While defensive linemen are broken up into ends and tackles for the purposes of determining franchise tags, offensive linemen are not — so while elite-level tackles make more than top-flight guards and centers, they all are lumped together when it comes to franchise tag salary amounts.

The Patriots are the first team in the NFL to use the franchise tag this year.

Little more than a week ago, New England owner Robert Kraft told reporters that he wanted Mankins to remain with the Patriots, but at the time would not confirm whether the team would use the franchise tag on him or whether there had been recent talks between the team and Mankins’s representative on a long-term deal.

“Well, Logan Mankins is one of the best players on the team and I think there’s been a little misunderstanding about some things that have been written,’’ Kraft said two days before the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas. “I just personally want to say I hope he’s with us for a long term and we’re going to try to do whatever we have to do to make sure that happens.’’

Mankins said at the Pro Bowl last month that he would not be happy if the Patriots franchised him.

The NFL Players’ Association disputes the league’s use of tags this year, since the current collective bargaining agreement expires March 3 and without a CBA, the tags are “worthless,’’ NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said at the Super Bowl.

The Players’ Association has said it will go to court on behalf of any franchised players who want to challenge the legitimacy of the tag.

“We would challenge any attempt to franchise a player and to make him the victim of it by a contract that he signs,’’ NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen said earlier this month.

“There’s no franchise tag without a new CBA, it’s as simple as that. We have a lot of things in the agreement that say ‘in each year covered by this agreement.’ But when the agreement ends, those rights don’t survive. It’s very simple. This isn’t rocket science.’’

Though Mankins did not want to sign his restricted free agent tender for 2010 — he was one of more than 200 would-be unrestricted free agents who saw their status change to restricted under the rules of the uncapped year — he really had no choice but to sign and show up before Week 10 to earn a sixth accrued season. That enabled him to be an unrestricted free agent under both the new and old rules.

But now that he’s been franchised, his ability to test the open market essentially has been taken away. Teams can remove the franchise designation and use it on the same player more than once if they’re willing to pay (being franchised a second year gets a player a salary equal to 120 percent of the previous year’s franchise salary), but players don’t have much recourse other than signing the deal.

New England has negotiated the terms of the franchise tag in the past, as it did with Asante Samuel in 2007. Samuel signed his tag only after getting the Patriots to agree not to franchise him a second time if he played in 60 percent of the defensive snaps or the team won 12 games. Both qualifiers were met, and Samuel got his freedom, signing a big-money deal with the Eagles in 2008.

The 28-year-old Mankins was named All-Pro last season despite missing seven games because of his displeasure with the Patriots placing the restricted free agent tender on him and then slashing it (as was their right) when he didn’t sign the tender by the June 15 deadline.

New England used the franchise tag on Vince Wilfork last year, though within a few days of Wilfork being tagged, he signed a five-year contract.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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