One view on value of guards like Mankins

The Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei, who writes a "Sunday Blitz" piece for the National Football Post, brings to light an interesting theory when it comes to offensive linemen in the NFL.

The big money positions along the line are usually the tackle spots, mainly because they are responsible for blocking the opposition's best pass rusher, but Pompei suggests that might be changing.

"New wisdom says interior offensive linemen and defensive tackles may be becoming more important than their edge counterparts," Pompei writes.

"What’s changed? Offenses.

"Because protecting the quarterback is more difficult than ever, and arguably more important with the way teams are emphasizing the pass, we’re seeing fewer and fewer deep drops. It’s all short drops and quick throws. That minimizes edge rushers. And it also makes the offensive tackles less important."

When it comes to the Patriots, this shines a spotlight on what could be considered "need" areas.

At interior offensive line, starting left guard Logan Mankins has been assigned the franchise tag and there is no guarantee he will be back, starting right guard Stephen Neal retired, and center Dan Koppen enters the last year of his contract.

Meanwhile, on defense, for all the media chatter about an improved pass rush, it's a reminder that edge defenders aren't the only solution to give the team a boost. A better push on the interior could help as well.

One thought to consider is whether the Patriots buy into this theory more than they did at this time last year, and if it could impact their willingness to extend themselves further in negotiations with Mankins.