The New England Patriots dealt offensive guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Bucs but how will the loss of a five-time All-Pro affect the Pats and their NFL odds in this upcoming season?
If there was ever an NFL version of Survivor then Bill Belichick would be my choice as the clear favorite to be the last man standing. Belichick’s press conferences are about as charismatic as a loaf of white bread and when it comes to bonding with his players, he has all the warmth and affection of an IRS agent. Logan Mankins, the Patriots stalwart left guard, was off everybody’s radar in terms of getting the Belichick Boot but Bill failed us not and demonstrated again that no one is untouchable.
While all the talking heads and football pundits were clearly caught off guard when the deal was announced, netting New England second-year tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round pick from Tampa Bay, the logic of the deal eventually began to permeate. Mankins had been involved in a dispute with the organization about a long term deal but was slapped with the franchise tag in consecutive years before the Patriots relented and made him the highest paid offensive lineman before the 2011 season commenced.
Although the Patriots forgave, rumor is they didn’t forget and Mankins performance diminished last year with the enormous caveat that he played much of the season with a torn ACL. Mankins legendary toughness obviously did not outweigh the fact that he gave up the most sacks of any left guard in the league and is approaching this season as a 32-year-old veteran who may be perceived as damaged goods. Yet, the nastiness he brought to the offensive line was infectious and his absence in the locker room will be felt by every player regardless of position. The hope of course is that second-year man Jordan Devey and/or fourth-year pro Marcus Cannon can fill the void.
So What Now?
While the Patriots lost an offensive captain and team leader in Mankins they did address a glaring issue that is near and dear to Bill Belichick’s heart. They have in Tim Wright a raw tight end that caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns last season while starting only eight games in his rookie campaign. Not bad for an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers. He is a converted wide receiver and is much more a pass catching option in the mode of Aaron Hernandez then a sheer strong arm blocker. Belichick delighted in the additional passing option when Hernandez was in the fold and will try to replicate that with the oft-injured but uber talented Rob Gronkowski as his primary tight end target.
The bottom line is that losing Mankins should not affect the New England Patriots’ NFL odds as Mankins was a devastating run blocker but his pass protection was not nearly as effective as evidenced by the sheer number of sacks he allowed last season. The Pats look to be pass happy this season and if Mankins’ replacement can actually improve the pass protection while giving up some of the surge in the run blocking department then Belichick will come out of this unscathed and saving his boss Bob Kraft several million over the next several seasons.
And while we’re on the subject of saving money let’s talk about where the Pats might spend it. It has been a foregone conclusion that All-World cornerback Darrelle Revis will be out of Foxboro after this season with a salary cap number of around $25 million to keep him here in the second-year of what is effectively a one-year deal. However, word is that Revis has caught the Patriots bug and he may want to hang around. If so, then perhaps the money they are saving by shipping Mankins out will be earmarked for keeping Revis in a New England uniform.