Despite objections from the NFL Players Association, the NFL has allowed teams to apply franchise tags for two weeks, starting Friday.
Logan Mankins earned All-Pro honors despite playing in just nine games this season.
The team's decision to franchise Mankins could cause angst among Patriot Nation. Fans don't want their stars to be unhappy or at odds with the organization. The franchise tag would prolong a messy rift between Mankins and the front office that has lasted many months and involved owner Robert Kraft reportedly demanding a public apology.
But the Patriots are making the absolutely proper move here.
If Mankins is unsatisfied, so what? He was disgruntled last season and played so dominantly he was voted first-team All-Pro and selected as a Pro Bowl starter by the fans, coaches and players -- even though he played only nine games.
Mankins is a proud competitor who will block just as hellaciously regardless of his situation. He's not wired to go half-speed or pull back just because he's displeased with his deal. A guy like Mankins doesn't pout when the ball is snapped.
Mankins' situation was worth our empathy heading into the 2010 season. He was supposed to be an unrestricted free agent, but rules governing the uncapped year altered the criteria. The new rules rendered him a restricted free agent. That allowed the Patriots to make a $3.26 million qualifying offer to retain his services, although market value pegged his value at more than twice that.
But he couldn't forfeit a season of NFL experience and risk being a restricted free agent again this year. So he finally relented and reported to the team on Nov. 3
Mankins deserved better treatment then, but the franchise tag will mean he receives a projected $10.5 million salary next season.
Franchise tags pay the average of the top five players at a given position, and the league doesn't differentiate between spots along the offensive line. That means highly paid left tackles factor into Mankins' franchise figure.
A franchise tag for Mankins would be bad news for Miami Dolphins fans, who were hopeful they could get a shot at him to solidify their interior offensive line. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland reportedly spoke to the Patriots about a Mankins trade before the star guard finally went back to work in November.
Unlike past years, however, the franchise tag is not a guaranteed process. The NFL Players Association disputes the legality of the tags this year because the collective bargaining agreement is about to expire and there are no guidelines for a free-agency period.
Teams would be wise to use the tag while they can and then let the courts sort out the rest. The New York Jets expect to use their franchise tag on inside linebacker David Harris.