But Mankins wasn’t the only Patriot who entered the offseason in that in-limbo group of fourth- and fifth-year players who would’ve been unrestricted in the old capped environment, but are RFAs in this new upcapped world. Stephen Gostkowski and Pierre Woods came into 2010 in the same spot.
And both have since signed their tenders. Gostkowski inked an injury waiver in March so he could participate in the team’s offseason program, then signed his $1.759 million tender in mid-April, after the free RFA period ended and the team retained exclusive negotiating rights.
“The rules change and you gotta abide by them, whether you like them or not,” Gostkowski said after practice today. “It’s just something that happens, and I’m just grateful to even get the tender and have a one-year deal, and to be part of the Patriots is what I want and what I wanted. I don’t make the rules, I just play by them.
“I don’t complain over stuff I have no control over. There’s no point in even thinking about it.”
Woods was tendered at the right-of-first-refusal level, and signed a one-year deal, like Gostkowski, after the Patriots retained his exclusive negotiating rights in mid-April.
“I’ll say this – Everybody’s situation is different, I just wanna play ball,” he said. “At the end of the day, I just want to play football, I wanted to be out here with my teammates. This is the team that gave me an opportunity. Everybody looks at it differently – You have a family, you do want to have security. But hey, I just want to play ball.”
Gostkowski said he made his decision to sign an injury waiver and report for the offseason program, where most RFAs didn’t, because as a way of having normalcy at an uncertain time.
“I didn’t know any different,” Gostkowski said. “I’ve been here every offseason and I don’t know how to approach a season any other way. I didn’t want anything to be different. The agent tells you what not to do, and I showed up and tried to work hard and get better in the offseason, and it’s working out.”
This offseason has been tough on those guys. A football player’s second contract is, generally, when he sets himself up for life.
And while the pay still isn’t much to sneeze at, the bonanzas that used to be available, in some cases, were.
“It was just so uncertain that no one really knew (what to expect),” Gostkowski said. “They knew something was going to be different. The teams have meetings about that stuff and you hear about it and you deal with it, and you move on.
“If it’s out of my hands I can’t sit around and worry about it. I can’t let anything that happens with everybody else affect the way I play on the field.”
Woods added, “It’s like you said, this is across the league, it is what it is, you can’t do anything about it. … I can’t control that, all I can control is my effort out on that field and what I do, just try to play my role, whatever it is, whatever they ask me to do. That’s all I control. At the end of the day, you can’t control anything else. You’re here one day, next day you’re gone. Just like in life.”
Now, Woods’ and Gostkowski’s situations aren’t quite like Mankins, a two-time Pro Bowler with the earning power to command $7-8 million per year on the open market. There’s simply more at stake in the Mankins’ talk, and the discord between the sides is proof of that.
But the different approaches taken by players certainly signifies that, in an uncertain climate, it’s really hard to figure out what the right thing to do for these guys is.