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Because of new, restrictive rules and an uncertain financial future for the NFL, the notion of rewarding a young star with a lucrative contract extension no longer is simply a matter of two sides agreeing on a price. It's complicated. Nevertheless, there have been some monster deals recently -- and Nick Mangold has noticed.
"You look at it and you wonder," the New York Jets All-Pro center said Wednesday.
He's beginning to wonder, why not me?
Mangold is entering the final year of a five-year contract (due to make $3 million in 2010), and he'd like to sign an extension before the start of the regular season. Thing is, he might have to take a number and wait outside Mike Tannenbaum's office, as several prominent Jets face contract situations -- namely linebacker David Harris, cornerback Darrelle Revis and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
To this point, there have been no substantive negotiations, according to Mangold, who described the dialogue this way: "Pleasantry calls, but nothing serious." He expects to huddle with his agent later this week to study the recent extensions around the league, with the hope of also discussing the situation with the Jets' front office in the coming days.
The Jets, like many teams, are reluctant to dole out a long-term extension because the CBA rules could change and there's a looming work stoppage in 2011. The "30-percent rule" is creating the biggest problem. By rule, in this uncapped year, the base salaries in a re-negotiation are allowed to grow only 30% from one year to the next. Teams can get around that by doling out an enormous signing bonus, but they're leery of paying big bucks in such an uncertain financial time.
Of course, that didn't stop the San Francisco 49ers from giving linebacker Patrick Willis a five-year, $50 million extension.
Based on the market for centers, Mangold, arguably the best in the league, is looking at more than $20 million in guarantees. Understandably, he'd like long-term security. He saw what happened to Leon Washington -- a devastating injury in a contract year -- and it was a wake-up call. That's why he'd rather not wait until after the 2010 season to get it done.
"I would hope it wouldn't come to that," Mangold said.
The Jets regard Mangold as a cornerstone player, and the team's track record suggests they're willing to pay for a quality line. In 2006, they used first-round picks on Ferguson and Mangold. In 2008, they gave left guard Alan Faneca a free-agent contract for $21 million guaranteed -- and he' s still collecting some of that as a member of the Cards. Just last month, they spent a second-round choice on Vladimir Ducasse, who could replace Faneca this season.
"It gives you a sense that the organization realizes that offensive linemen are the engine that runs the car," Mangold said.
He's a main cog in the Big Engine That Could -- and he'd like that to be reflected in his paycheck.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.