Make no mistake about it: Logan Mankins got a raw business deal in 2010. He should have been an unrestricted free agent, but due to the uncapped year and expiring CBA, he wasn't, and he was paid just $1.54 million to smash his head into 300-pound defensive linemen and run full speed into linebackers all year. Considering he should have been making 10 times that much, it wasn't a fair price.
This year, though, it's hard to feel bad for the guy who will be making $10.5 million for the same job.
Look, obviously he'd make more money on the open market. He'd be able to guarantee himself something like $16 million with an opportunity to earn, say, $40 million over six years. That's a lot better than the franchise-tag figure he'll make this year, but the fact that some hard-working Americans can truly feel sorry for Mankins is a bit hard to understand.
The per capita income in the U.S. is estimated at $27,041. For the average worker at that salary, it would take 57 years of work to earn the $1.54 million that Mankins was offered last season. So if you've been a milkman since '54, get ready to earn the 1,540,000th dollar of your career this year!
To earn Mankins' 2011 salary, it'd take the average worker 389 years of work. So if you've been employed, working diligently since settling with the Pilgrims in Plymouth, you'll soon be earning the same $10.51 million that Mankins will be paid from September 2011 to January 2012.
You see the problem here?
Those on the other side will argue that it's not that simple, but it is. Mankins is a professional athlete, and while he may have been hurt the most by the labor complications, his tale is far from heartbreaking.
He didn't do himself any favors, either, with his comments in April.
"I've heard there's this thing in football called free agency, but it's been two years now and I haven't seen it," Mankins said at — of all things — a charity event. "Maybe one of these days I could actually experience it. That's the rumor."
Excuse me for a moment while I grab some Kleenex and throw a boo-hoo party in Mankins' honor.
OK, hold on, almost over.
One more minute, please. This is really hard.
All right, I'm ready to tough the rest of this one out.
The comment was uttered somewhat in jest, but the message was clear. Mankins feels wronged by a system that has cost him a lot of money, but it's the very same system that will make him a very, very rich man — richer than any steer-roper back in California could ever dream of making.
You'll also notice that Mankins isn't complaining about the structure of the franchise tag. I've heard there's this rule that doesn't differentiate tackles, guards and centers in determining the salary of franchised linemen. It is that little wrinkle that will allow Mankins to earn $10 million rather than a much more modest figure. Or at least, that's the rumor.
The other side will also tell you the Patriots didn't employ the best business practices in treating Mankins properly. It's a fair claim, sure, but if players can leave teams for the highest bidder upon reaching unrestricted free agency, why shouldn't a team follow the rules and pay players what they're allowed to pay players? How many times have you heard players with no loyalty to their teams remark rather casually that "It's a business"? Is it wrong for management to act with the same principle in mind?
If Mankins spent his time working on an honest, fair deal instead of ripping the organization, maybe he'd have what he wanted by now. Instead, he got impatient and went on a woe-is-me rant in June 2010.
"Right now," he told ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, "this is about principle with me and keeping your word and how you treat people. This is what I thought the foundation of the Patriots was built on. Apparently, I was wrong. Growing up, I was taught a man's word is his bond. Obviously this isn't the case with the Patriots."
The comments read more like the Facebook status of an angry teenager who's mad at the world than it does a man willing to do serious business. In that same interview, Mankins was asked about the $3.26 million offer that was sitting on the table. His response: "There is no way that I'm signing that thing."
A $3.26 million offer? How awful! Good for you for passing that up. What a shame that it came back to bite you and you only made half that. At least you held out for half the season to prove your point. Those were some solid tactics.
Those comments were a while ago, though, so let's get an update. Mankins, when asked by the Boston Herald in January on how he'd feel if the Pats did place the franchise tag on him, felt wronged just the same.
"No," Mankins told the paper of potentially earning a $10.1 million salary, "I wouldn't be happy about that, if that's what they chose to do, to be dealt that kind of hand."
If you're that upset about being dealt a $10 million hand, maybe it's time you step away from poker table.
Making matters even worse for Mankins, in terms of public image, were the events unfolding on live television on Monday. Robert Kraft, the very man with whom Mankins has been unable to find common ground in negotiations, was credited as being the catalyst to striking a deal and ending the lockout. The Pats owner received praise from the commissioner, from the head of the players association and from several players who play for other teams. It was made very clear that when two sides both want the same thing, Kraft can broker a deal — even amid difficult times in his own personal life.
"[Kraft is] a man who helped us save football, and we're so gracious for that," said Jeff Saturday, the center for the rival Colts. "We're gracious for his family and for the opportunity he presented to get this deal done. So thank you very much. We really appreciate it."
When it comes down to it, Mankins has reason to feel upset. He's one of the best at his position, and he is, for lack of a better term, a badass on the field. We all enjoy watching him play, and you'd be nuts to not respect the way he plays the game.
Yet, he could tear up his knee in an instant. In the NFL, you never know which snap is going to be your last, so you better get paid as much as you can while you can. At the same time, he's earning the salary of a lifetime — or of 10 lifetimes — to take the field and play a game, while many Americans struggle to find work and feed their families.
When the doors open in Foxboro, Mankins better show up, disgruntled or otherwise, and sign that franchise tender. There's no sympathy left for the $10 million man.