Mankins' return great news for Patriots

Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins is about to finally sign a contract with the New England Patriots, according to multiple reports.

MankinsMankinsMankins is expected to sign his restricted free-agent tender of $1.54 million Tuesday and report for duty.

While the Patriots have the NFL's best record at 6-1, Mankins certainly will make them better.

He is a hellacious run blocker, and the Patriots have struggled with pass protection this year. Tom Brady wasn't sacked in Sunday's victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Gillette Stadium, but he had been dropped 10 times in the previous three games. Brady was sacked 16 times all last year.

ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss put together a quick analysis of what Mankins' return will mean for the offensive line and left guard Dan Connolly in particular.

Mankins, while technically not a holdout because he wasn't under contract, was the last player to report to his team.

He has been upset with the Patriots for at least six months over failed negotiations on a long-term contract and demanded a trade in June. He might have sat out the entire season had NFL labor uncertainty compelled him to return.

Mankins was supposed to be an unrestricted free agent this year, but when owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement, an uncapped season with new free-agency guidelines kicked in. Players needed a sixth accrued season to be unrestricted, but Mankins had only five.

Nobody knows what the new CBA will entail. To help him gain unrestricted status after this year, Mankins needed to accrue another season. Thus, he's showing up to sign a contract he doesn't like.

But once he gets in the Patriots locker room -- they kept his stall just the way he left it -- I'm sure those competitive juices will kick in. He'll play proudly between left tackle Matt Light and center Dan Koppen as he has since the Patriots drafted him in 2005.

And it's hard to imagine Bill Belichick holding a grudge with a standout player who can help the Patriots chase another championship.