Amidst all the focus on Darrelle Revis, there’s another big holdout going on in the AFC East.
Step forward, Logan Mankins.
Mankins won’t get the press of Revis. He hasn’t shut down any receivers. There are no islands named in his honor, and he doesn’t have any readily available stats to garner him the praise an elite player deserves.
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t deserving of praise — or a raise, for that matter. Going deep in the PFF vault for a hard look at one of the league’s best and what he means to his team.
Guarding His Future
Mankins has stood out as one of the premier offensive linemen in the league since his rookie season and especially the last two. In 2008 his +29.9 run blocking grade was significantly higher than any other guard, and while he didn’t quite match this in 2009 as the Patriots threw the ball more, he was able to lower the total pressure he allowed from 27 to just 17.
As a run-blocker, Mankins finished sixth in positive blocks made in the run game (80 in 510 attempts.). Alan Faneca (91 positive blocks on 729 attempts) and Carl Nicks (91 positive blocks on 582 attempts) had more, but Mankins’ ratio was best.
He also graded out as the fourth-highest left guard in pass protection (+9.2 rating) — he’s right at the top of the list of left guards in that respect. He excels with the short screen plays the Patriots are known to use, and ranked as our best (+5.0) screen-blocking guard in the league. It’s only really the penalty count (eight, all accepted) that hurt him a year ago and dropped him below Nicks as our top-rated left guard.
So there’s no real denying that Mankins is one of the best guards in the league and logic says that he deserves to get paid like one. And it doesn’t hurt his case that another elite guard in the same position as Mankins was given a benchmark-setting contract.
A Super Bowl Winner’s Super Deal
Hot on the heels of hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy and his first Pro Bowl appearance, Pro Football Focus’ top ranked guard (+29.4) Jahri Evans got paid. His 7-year deal could max out at $56.7 million as the Saints made a statement that they think Evans is the top guard in the game. He had 96 positive run blocks and a staggeringly low 28 negative blocks (where only 9 were failed blocks). He was the best in 2009.
But one season doesn’t make him a better player than Mankins.
Mankins was better in 2008 and has produced more consistently over the early years of his career. The difference between the two is negligible, and the since both men found themselves in as restricted free agents heading into the off season, there’s a perfect comparison for Mankins in assessing his value.
So why won’t the Patriots pay?
The Pats moved pretty quickly to move solid right tackle Nick Kaczur to left guard in camp — Sebastian Vollmer had to move into the starting lineup based on a superior rookie year, and without dropping the steady Matt Light. But with Kaczur picking up an injury that could rule him out of the 2010 season, it now leaves the Pats potentially starting Dan Connolly at left guard.
Connolly started four games at right guard and was used as a fullback and tight end at times during 2009, featuring in a not insignificant 420 snaps. He finished the season with a credible 23 positive blocks on 219 running plays— enough to suggest he could fit into what the Patriots line is doing but not in the same league as Mankins. Even if Connolly can stretch his play out over the course of the season, the Patriots line is in for a net loss, so why not pay a top-tier player what he deserves?
Perhaps it boils down to the Patriots not valuing guards as highly as other positions, and so the prospect of putting $8 million a year on the table for a guard isn’t something they’re relishing. Perhaps they’re happy with their depth. Or perhaps they’re trying to call their All Pro guard’s bluff.
It’s a risky strategy, that’s for sure, but one they’ve used before. If they get the right draft picks, they could swing a deal like they did with defensive end Richard Seymour in 2009. But there are a lot of young draft picks in New England these days, and not as many blue chippers.
Verdict: Pay the Man.