Patriots toughen Mankins stance

Large cut promised if he does not sign

Monday deadline
By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / June 11, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — It has long been known that NFL players who received restricted free agent tenders have until June 15 to sign them, or they risk financial losses.

And now it looks as though the Patriots are ready to follow through on their ability to cause such a problem for Logan Mankins.

A league source confirmed that the team sent a letter to its two-time Pro Bowl left guard, telling him that if he does not sign his tender by Monday, it will cut his offer to 110 percent of his 2009 salary.

What does that mean? Mankins was tendered at the highest level, meaning he will make $3.268 million for the coming season if he signs before the deadline. If he does not, 110 percent of his salary from last year, the final year of the rookie contract he signed after the Patriots made him the 32d overall pick in 2005, equals $1.54 million.

So the 28-year old Californian stands to lose $1.728 million.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Patriots’ mandatory minicamp is set to begin Tuesday and run through Thursday. That is about a week later than the camp has been held in recent years.

Mankins is not the only unsigned RFA to receive such a letter; the Chargers sent similar letters to receiver Vincent Jackson and offensive lineman Marcus McNeill, and Denver’s Elvis Dumervil, the league’s sack leader last year, received one as well.

According to the NFL Players Association, teams are not required to notify players that they will take such action. The move most likely will antagonize the players and potentially cause some hard feelings during negotiations.

While Mankins would prefer a long-term extension, the Patriots are within their rights by giving him just the RFA tender for this season. One of the rules of the 2010 uncapped year stipulates that only players with six or more accrued seasons are eligible for unrestricted free agency; in the past, that number has been four years.

More than 200 players were affected by the change, and it meant several top-level players — such as Mankins, Dumervil, and Miami’s Ronnie Brown — were unable to hit the open market and cash in on their success.

In the case of Mankins, just as the cost of elite left tackles has skyrocketed, the price for guards has risen as well. New Orleans All-Pro Jahri Evans (who had been a restricted free agent) signed a six-year, $56.7 million deal last month with the Saints that included $19 million guaranteed; in 2008, the Jets lured Alan Faneca away from Pittsburgh with a four-year deal that averaged $8 million per season and had $23 million in guaranteed money.

The Giants’ Chris Snee, Dallas’s Leonard Davis, and Steve Hutchinson of the Vikings — multiple Pro Bowlers all — and others at the position have agreed to deals in the past three to four years that pay around $7 million per year.

New England has three RFAs this year: Mankins, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, and linebacker Pierre Woods. Gostkowski, also a Pro Bowler, and Woods have signed their tenders.

Yesterday, Gostkowski acknowledged that his situation was out of his hands.

“The rules change and you have to abide by them, whether you like them or not,’’ he said. “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.’’

Mankins has stayed away from Gillette Stadium since the season ended in January, though he is under no obligation to be there; thus far, all offseason workouts and practices have been voluntary, and technically he is not under contract with the team.

At the NFL meetings in March, agent Frank Bauer said of his client, “He’s not very happy. There comes a time when there is a loyalty factor, a loyalty factor with a player who has never missed a game, never missed a practice. There is a strong bond between him and Bill Belichick, but right now he’s caught in the system.’’

The Patriots re-signed several unrestricted free agents, including Vince Wilfork, Leigh Bodden, Tully Banta-Cain, Kevin Faulk, and Stephen Neal, but they also extended the contracts of Nick Kaczur, Mark LeVoir, and Rob Ninkovich last fall, before they were set to expire.

Albert R. Breer of the Globe staff contributed to this story.

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