Patriots officially tag Mankins

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In a move that was wholly expected and likely won’t be well-received, the Patriots today have designated Logan Mankins as their franchise player for the upcoming season.

The tag means that Mankins will receive a one-year, guaranteed contract equal to 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. For 2010, the franchise number for offensive linemen was $10.7 million.

Mankins is the first player in the league to receive the franchise designation this year.

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

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“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. 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,” Kraft said.

The NFL Players’ Association disputes the league’s ability to use the tags this year, since the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on March 3 and without a CBA, the tags are “worthless,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said at the Super Bowl.

Though Mankins did not want to sign his restricted free agent tender for 2010 — he was one of over 200 NFL players who were 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 in order to earn a sixth accrued season. That sixth season 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 has been taken away. Teams can remove the franchise designation, but players don’t have much recourse other than signing the deal.

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New England has negotiated the terms of the franchise tag in the past, as it did with Asante Samuel in 2007. Samuel reported to the team and signed his tag only after getting the Pats 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 signed a big-money deal with the Eagles in 2008.

The 28-year old Mankins was named a first-team All-Pro performer this year despite missing half of the season due to his displeasure with the Patriots placing a 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.

Though he remained in the Foxborough area throughout his holdout (that wasn’t really a holdout since he wasn’t technically under contract), Mankins returned to the Pats the first week of November and immediately was re-inserted into the first team offense at his customary left guard spot.

The news of Mankins’s tagging was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

New England used the franchise tag on Vince Wilfork last year, though when it was done it was clear that the two sides would continue negotiating the terms of a long-term deal. Within a few days of Wilfork being tagged, he signed a five-year deal to stay with the Pats.

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