Patriots Mailbag: Logan Mankins May Refuse to Sign Franchise Tender, But Offensive Line Has Depth to Survive

Patriots Mailbag: Logan Mankins May Refuse to Sign Franchise Tender, But Offensive Line Has Depth to Survive First of all, there were a lot of great questions this week, and I wasn't able to get to all of them. So, please feel free to submit them again for next week's mailbag, and I'll do my best to get to them then.

This week's mailbag touches on character in the draft, player workouts, some depth chart speculation on both sides of the ball and an interesting trade proposal.

Thanks again for all of your questions.

Hi Jeff, I have what I think is a pretty interesting question regarding the Pats and their draft strategy, and I'd really like your opinion. The Pats always seem to draft the high-character, well-respected prospects from the first round of the draft to the last round of the draft. I have no problem with that, but wouldn't the Pats seem like the perfect organization that could actually take a few more chances/risks on some of the draft prospects that see their stock drop because of off-field/character issues?
–Brian CT

While the Patriots have drafted about a dozen college captains in the last two years, not everyone has been a model citizen. Obviously, Ryan Mallett is Exhibit A, but if you look back at last year, Brandon Spikes (eye-gouging incident), Aaron Hernandez (failed at least one drug test, according to a report) and Brandon Deaderick (victim of a shooting during an alleged attempted robbery at Alabama) had some blemishes. Brandon Tate (reportedly failed a drug test at the 2009 combine) and Brandon Meriweather (on-field fight at Miami) also had some pre-draft issues.

The Patriots have deserved their reputation as a high-character organization, but they've proven in recent years that they will take chances on players. And if you look at that list of players, you'll also see those players have worked out very well for them.

Are the Patriots running player-led, unofficial workouts like other teams in the NFL? Is Tom Brady taking charge and running a training camp like other NFL quarterbacks?
–Dave Willoughby

Jeff, I see articles about other team captains holding practices. Do you know if the Pats have been doing the same?
–KW

I reported in March that Patriots captain Jerod Mayo was helping organize football-specific sessions for those who wanted to work out in the Foxboro area. Earlier this month, I reported 12-15 Patriots were participating regularly in these workouts. It's my understanding Tom Brady hasn't been involved on a regular basis, but I don't know one way or another if Brady has appeared from time to time.

What do you think the Pats' starting offensive line will look like this year? Do we lose or keep Logan Mankins and/or Matt Light? Does Sebastian Vollmer move over to left guard, and where does the new guy fit in?
–BCboy

My prediction is Matt Light comes back for at least one more year, although he'll probably sign a two- or three-year deal. I also believe the franchise tag will hold up on Logan Mankins, and he'll have no choice but to return to New England. Even with that, I bet Mankins refuses to sign his tender much like he did with his restricted free agent tender in 2010, and he probably won't report until midseason.

As for the "new guy," the Patriots drafted left tackle Nate Solder and offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, who can play left tackle, left guard, right guard and right tackle, though his most likely position will be at guard. Cannon is undergoing chemotherapy treatments for Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, so the Patriots can't count on him to be ready for 2011, though it surely hasn't been ruled out. And finally, Vollmer won't be playing any guard.

My prediction right now is the Patriots start the season with Light, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Ryan Wendell and Vollmer from left to right. Eventually, I believe Mankins will supplant Connolly, who will move to right guard. If Light doesn't return, Solder will start at left tackle, and Vollmer will stay on the right side.

Jeff, are Kevin Faulk and Matt Light coming back? What is going on with the strike? I have been a season-ticket holder for 19 years and would like to plan my Sundays out. Thanks.
–Kevin

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, it's a lockout, not a strike. Big difference. A lockout is orchestrated by the owners. A strike is orchestrated by the players. And if you want the latest on the lockout, read this.

I've said before I think Light would take a bit of a hometown deal to stay with the Patriots, so I think he could be had for two years and $16-18 million. Since, for what it's worth, I think it would be best for Solder to develop for a year on the bench, it would be worth it to re-sign Light.

Faulk said he'll rehab under the assumption that he'll play in 2011, and if his knee responds the way he hopes, he'll likely give it a go. I think he'll have a spot in camp if he wants it.

What kind of impact do you see Marcus Stroud having for this team?
–Brood

Marcus Stroud is said to be a great character and tremendous leader, so it will start in the locker room. On the field, the Patriots can only hope Stroud can have the same impact as Gerard Warren, who is a free agent. Realistically, Stroud should be in a rotation with Ron Brace and Mike Wright as three guys who can play across the line in multiple fronts. Stroud is more of a defensive end in the 3-4, but he'll play inside in four-man fronts, which will likely be his greatest strength.

Do you think a package like this would be enough to land Larry Fitzgerald? Brian Hoyer, Kyle Arrington, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and a second- or third-round draft pick. The Cardinals need a quarterback and as far as I know, Hoyer has gotten good reviews by many scouts these past couple of years, and now with Mallett on the Pats, he is expendable. I realize that the loss of Law Firm would leave a bit of a hole for running back, but would it not be worth it for Fitzgerald?
–Jamie

I want to start by thanking you for submitting one of the most creative questions in the brief history of this mailbag. Now, there's a reason why trades involving several players happen just once in a blue moon in the NFL. They're extremely hard to orchestrate because of the salary-cap implications, and there is an even more uncertain outlook in that regard this offseason. Also, Brian Hoyer has one year left on his rookie deal, Kyle Arrington is an exclusive-rights free agent (which essentially means he's the Patriots' property as long as they want to retain him) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a restricted free agent. Because of those contract situations, it would make the deal even more difficult to pull off.

I believe the Cardinals would be open to trading Fitzgerald if they got the right quarterback in return, especially since they ignored the position in the draft, but Hoyer has no starting experience at the NFL level and probably wouldn't be that guy. And at this point, the Cardinals will probably either trade a pick for Kevin Kolb or sign a quarterback in free agency, all of which can happen without trading Fitzgerald. Even further, the Cardinals just drafted Ryan Williams in the second round, and he'll join a crowded Arizona backfield, so Green-Ellis probably wouldn't be overly appealing to the Cardinals.

On the other side of it, that's a gigantic haul from the Patriots' perspective, and I don't think Bill Belichick would give up that much for a wide receiver. With all that said, I don't think the trade would make sense for either side.

Yardbarker

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