On the eve of the NFL season, the New England Patriots traded starting guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It was a surprising move because of the timing (12 days before Week 1 against the Dolphins) and the less-than-impressive return they got (a back-up tight end and a fourth-round pick).
The Patriots traded him because he refused to take a pay cut, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Mankins signed a six-year contract in 2011 that made him the highest-paid guard in the league. It’s a monster deal for a 32-year-old. OverTheCap called it the worst contract on the team.
Mankins would have counted $US10.5 million against the salary cap in 2014, $US11 million against the cap in 2015, and $US7 million against the cap in 2016. By offloading his deal to Tampa, the Patriots free up future cap room to pay younger players like Chandler Jones once they become free agents. The Patriots reportedly wanted to tear up the contract and negotiate a new one that would have been more friendly to their future cap situation — something that that Patriots have done in the past, most notably with Tom Brady — and Mankins refused.
The move probably makes sense in the long term. The Patriots are notoriously unsentimental about kicking ageing players on large contracts to the curb, and it has proven to be a successful strategy for them under Bill Belichick.
But this move might be particularly tough to swallow in the short term. Mankins has been the team’s most consistent offensive lineman in the past few years, making four-straight Pro Bowls.
The window for the Patriots to win one more Super Bowl with Tom Brady is closing rapidly. Jason Cole of Bleacher Report reported that Brady was “very upset” about the trade. In an interview with WEEI, Brady said, “I know it’s going to happen next year too, I know it’s going to happen the year after that, the year after that. For as long as you continue playing, you’re going to be dealing with this.”<
In Sunday’s 33-20 upset loss to the Dolphins, you saw why Brady was so upset.
The offensive line was the team’s primary weakness. Brady was under pressure all day and got sacked four times.
Cameron Wake forced two second-half fumbles to seal the win:
It’s worth noting that Mankins went down with a knee injury in his Week 1 game, and that Miami’s pressure came from the edges rather than the middle of the line where Mankins plays. But the point is that the offensive line struggled without the guy who has been its anchor for years.
Trading Mankins had little do to with football. The Patriots have stayed so good for so long by hedging. With the exception of the 2007 team, they never go all-in on one particular season. They are always thinking about the long-term, trying to be good enough to compete every single year rather than trying to build a juggernaut. It’s a proven system for sustainable success. Unfortunately, it also requires them do to things like trade Logan Mankins, which undeniably makes them worse in 2014.
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