Bucs make right move on Logan Mankins

TAMPA, Fla. -- Ever since they were hired, coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht have been saying they want to win right away. They also have been saying they want to do things the right way.

What happened Tuesday showed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are very serious on both counts. The Bucs traded tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round draft pick next year to the New England Patriots for guard Logan Mankins. That’s a steep price, and Mankins also will take up $6 million of Tampa Bay’s salary cap for this season.

But you get what you pay for. What the Bucs got is a quality player to patch their problems at guard. Mankins, 32, is a six-time Pro Bowler and known as a great locker room guy.

“We have a responsibility to our team and to our fans to put the best possible football team on the field that we can,’’ Smith said. “By adding Pro Bowler Logan Mankins to the mix, we feel like we’re definitely a better football team.’’

Mankins beats the heck out of the alternative, which was Richie Incognito. The Bucs visited with Incognito, who was the central figure in the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal last season, on Monday night. On Tuesday, talks with the Patriots heated up in a hurry, and a deal got done.

Licht said the trade doesn't necessarily mean the team no longer is interested in Incognito.

“We always are going to leave options open of players that we think can be good fits and also be good players for us,’’ Licht said. “So, I wouldn’t put an end to that. That’s just one of several options that are out there right now.’’

But I think Licht was just being politically correct. I don’t think the door really remains open for Incognito. That’s because Mankins gives the Bucs precisely what they need. Unlike Incognito, there aren’t really any questions about Mankins, except for his age. Mankins is only a year older than Incognito.

“This was a guy we just felt like we couldn’t pass on,’’ Smith said.

Licht, who worked in the Patriots’ front office for three years, said he hasn’t seen any signs that Mankins is slowing down.

“To me, he looked the same as when I was there in 2009, ’10 and ’11,’’ Licht said. “He’s a good athlete and he’s very strong. He’s very smart. He’s very tough. He’s a tenacious player. A quiet type of toughness that as a defensive player you just don’t like playing against him. He brings that to the field and he brings exceptional leadership off the field.’’

Incognito might have looked appealing when the Bucs were desperate for help at guard. But Mankins is a better player and a much better fit in the locker room. The Bucs aren’t desperate anymore.