Left guard Logan Mankins will report to the team Tuesday and sign his contract tender, and he could play as early as Sunday against the Browns, according to ESPN and the Boston Herald.
Mankins is a restricted free agent and refused to sign his tender after feeling as though the Patriots weren?t offering him a sufficient long-term contract extension. However, Mankins would have needed to report to the Patriots in time to be under contract for six games in order to earn an accrued season. Without doing that, Mankins risked being in the same restricted free-agent situation next season, assuming the guidelines remained the same under the NFL's next collective-bargaining agreement.
Mankins has been the Patriots' best offensive lineman in recent seasons. He is a ruthless blocker who is literally a pain to play against, and he adds grit to the Patriots' unit.
Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell (during the second half in San Diego) have combined to do an admirable job for Mankins. The Patriots' offensive line has only surrendered 12 sacks through seven games, which is a slightly higher pace than the 18 they allowed last season. And the Patriots are ranked 13th in rushing yards despite losing Fred Taylor for the last month to a toe injury.
Mankins' tender will keep him with the Patriots through the 2010 season, and it's unclear if the two sides are willing to continue negotiating for an extension. However, with it being such an ugly, vitriolic situation just a few months ago, Mankins' willingness to report this week is a tangible sign of progress. Mankins didn?t technically have to report until later in the month to earn those six games, so this could signify his bitterness toward the organization has subsided.
And then, there's no telling when Mankins will be able to contribute. It will obviously take a few weeks for him to get into prime shape, so it might take some time for Mankins to earn his job back. The Patriots are in a good spot, since Connolly has been sturdy in Mankins' place, so they can afford to wait for Mankins to get it all back together.
The Patriots have been improving on a weekly basis over the last month. With the news that Mankins is ready to join the mix, the Patriots instantly got better once again Monday night.