Big pieces in place
Patriots sign Mankins to long-term contract
FOXBOROUGH - Sometimes “soon’’ can be nebulous. Depending on the situation, “soon’’ could mean minutes from now or weeks.
But yesterday, “soon’’ became now.
Just before 2 p.m., Patriots owner Robert Kraft declared that Logan Mankins would be signed to a long-term deal by the team “soon.’’
Kraft, however, was keeping a little secret: Just over two hours later, word came that Mankins had agreed to a six-year contract that will keep him in New England through 2016.
The contract makes complete sense for all parties. Mankins gets the security he had sought and the team keeps perhaps the best guard in the NFL for the foreseeable future and gets some salary cap relief.
Mankins’s franchise tag number was $10,116,000, all of which counted toward the 2011 cap. Though the financials weren’t released, the Patriots will very likely be able to shave some of that money off this year’s books.
Mankins, New England’s first-round draft pick in 2005, won’t turn 30 until March; he was named an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler last season despite playing in just nine games.
And finalizing Mankins wasn’t the only cap relief the Patriots negotiated. According to recently updated NFL Players Association numbers, both Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth had their contracts reworked.
Ochocinco, who was slated to make $6 million in base salary, will now make $1 million, though there could be performance bonuses. NFLPA records show the receiver will have base salaries of $3 million in 2012 and 2013.
Haynesworth took a similar pay cut. Under the terms of the contract he signed with the Redskins, the defensive lineman was to earn a base of $5.4 million. Now that number is $1.5 million.
A couple of months ago, it was hard to imagine the Patriots and Mankins ever reaching a long-term agreement.
In June 2010, having been tended a restricted free agent contract, Mankins said he wanted to be traded and accused the organization of going back on its word about doing an extension.
In February, agent Frank Bauer called the team’s treatment of Mankins “a travesty,’’ and in late April, Mankins joked that he’d only heard about NFL free agency and wished that he’d get to experience it someday.
At the Super Bowl, Kraft declared that he wanted Mankins in New England.
Somehow the two sides softened, and over the past week or so, positive signs emerged. Mankins stated that there had never been a problem between him and Kraft, and sounded optimistic that something could get done.
Then yesterday, Kraft reiterated his desire to keep Mankins.
“Probably you’ll see our good friend Logan Mankins will be signed up soon, hopefully to be a Patriot for life,’’ he said in his early-afternoon press conference. “It is our desire and it has always been our desire.
“We think that Logan is among the best there is at his position and we drafted him and we want him here.’’
And yesterday, finally, Kraft ensured that he will be.