Patriots have yet to franchise Mankins
The window for NFL teams to designate franchise players has been open for two days, but the Patriots have not yet slapped the tag on one of their players.
It is widely believed that if and when New England uses the tag, it will be placed on left guard Logan Mankins, a move that will not go over well with the 28-year-old All-Pro.
Though he would make roughly $10.5 million in 2011 (the average of the top five highest-paid offensive linemen in the league) if he is tagged, Mankins told the Boston Herald after a Pro Bowl practice in Hawaii last month that he “wouldn’t be happy’’ about being franchised.
“But we’ll see what happens,’’ he said. “I would never say the door is totally shut. But the way it’s looking right now, I don’t see them trying to keep me, unless it’s with the franchise tag.’’
While Mankins seems to have one foot out the door and is open to the idea of becoming a free agent, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said last week at the Super Bowl that he wants to keep Mankins.
“Logan Mankins is one of the best players on the team,’’ Kraft said. “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 would not say whether the team would indeed franchise Mankins or whether there have been recent discussions between Mankins’s agent, Frank Bauer, and the Patriots on a long-term contract.
There is another issue to consider: While the NFL believes it is within its rights to franchise players for the 2011 season even if the collective bargaining agreement expires, the Players’ Association disagrees and says the tags are meaningless without a new CBA.
The NFLPA has threatened legal action on behalf of tagged players.
After going without a coordinator in title on either side of the ball this past season, the Patriots will have at least one in 2011.
The team announced several changes within the coaching staff, and chief among them was the formal promotion of Bill O’Brien to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
O’Brien has been the primary play-caller the last two seasons since the departure of Josh McDaniels. His previous title was quarterbacks coach.
A graduate of St. John's Prep High School, O’Brien followed in the footsteps of his father and brother when he played football at Brown. O’Brien stayed with the Bears as a graduate assistant for two years.
O’Brien was the offensive coordinator at Duke when he got an offer from Bill Belichick, with whom he had exchanged e-mails over the years, to come to the Patriots as an offensive assistant in 2007.
This past season, the Patriots led the league in scoring and O’Brien helped guide the team through a midseason offensive makeover as Randy Moss was traded and Deion Branch was acquired. The unit only seemed to get better as the season went on, with Tom Brady throwing for 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Brady gave O’Brien his vote of confidence on a few occasions over the last year, and now O’Brien has a new title.
Other changes to the Patriots’ coaching staff include:
■Linebackers coach Matt Patricia will now coach the safeties. The move does not appear to be a demotion; rather Patricia is a confidant of Belichick’s and is likely being asked to lead a position that has promise but has not played up to its potential. Also, if Patricia is the defensive coordinator in waiting, as believed, getting experience in the secondary will round out his knowledge.
■Patrick Graham will now coach the linebackers. Graham joined the Patriots in 2009 as a defensive assistant after two years as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis.
■Brian Flores becomes a defensive assistant. The former Boston College linebacker began his career with the Patriots as a scout but last year jumped to the coaching staff as an offensive/special teams assistant.
A league source said Harold Nash, an assistant under Woicik, will be elevated to take his place.
■The Patriots also officially announced that Corwin Brown, who worked with the safeties this past season, will not return to the team.
Correction: Because of a reporter's error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the high school Bill O'Brien attended.