OK, so I've gotten a lot of questions on guys like Logan Mankins and Stephen Gostkowski, who have expiring contracts and would be unrestricted in old environment, but will be restricted if we get to the uncapped league year. The Patriots don't have the problems here that other clubs do, but it's safe too assume Mankins and Gostkowski aren't pleased with the prospect of what will happen here.
Here's how it works ... A deadline comes in February for teams to tender one-year offers to their restricted free agents. There are four different levels for these offers. It's pretty simple -- The more money you offer, the higher draft pick compensation you attach to the player. Here's how it worked in 2009:
$2.792 Million: First- and Third-round draft picks
$2.198 Million: First-round draft pick
$1.545 Million: Second-round draft pick
$1.010 Million: Original draft round
The last number could be interesting with players like Logan Mankins, or Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman, or Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson, or Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown.
Normally the "original draft pick" level was the lowest one, because RFAs were all third-year guys, and the only players, really, who enter the NFL on three-year deals are low draft picks or undrafted free agents. With fourth- and fifth-year guys included? You'll have ex-first-round picks in the mix. So they could be tendered at the lowest number, and have a prohibitive draft pick attached.
To be safe, it would reason that the Patriots would tender Mankins at the highest level, which would almost certainly be enough to keep other teams from signing him to an offer sheet, which New England would then have seven days to match.
There's a bit of an art to all this. Remember, Wes Welker was tendered at the second-round level by the Dolphins in 2007, a miscalculation of his value on the market that led to his departure for New England. If a team does it right, it can keep a valuable guy off the market at a bargain-basement rate, and that's where Mankins and Gostkowski are sure to have an issue here.
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