Citing sources close to the situation, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported on Sunday that Mankins and his agent Frank Bauer arrived at the Patriots training facility in Foxborough, Mass., about two weeks ago with both sides intending and believing they would be able to hammer out a long-term deal similar to the seven-year, $56.7 million contract that Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans signed with New Orleans in the spring.
But talks fell apart, sources said, when Mankins refused to make a public apology regarding critical comments he had made in the press about Kraft. The owner reiterated that no deal was in place.
"We have never had a deal with Logan," Kraft said on Boston radio station WEEI. "We don't discuss the details, and I am doing this only because this is the beginning of the season. We have a lot of reasons to be elated. We do business in over 80 countries in the world. When we make a commitment or we do a deal, we have the same people we're doing business, it's word of mouth and we live up to our commitments. We've never had a deal here."
In June, Mankins said that Kraft had broken promises regarding his contract.
"After the 2008 season, me and my agent approached the Patriots about an extension and I was told that Mr. Kraft did not want to do an extension because of the [uncertain collective bargaining agreement]," Mankins had said. "I was asked to play '09 out, and that they would address the contract during the uncapped year. I'm a team player, I took them at their word, and I felt I played out an undervalued contract.
"That's the big thing," he continued. "Right now, 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."
Kraft said on Monday that Mankins had indeed apologized to him and was willing to make a public statement as well. ESPN reported on Sunday that the public aspect of the apology led to a breakdown in talks.
"I hate violating a private conversation but I think it's worthy because it speaks to this issue that -- I got a call three weeks ago, maybe, something around that time, from Logan -- and he apologized to me for the comments that he made in the public media," Kraft said to WEEI. "He said that he regretted he did it. He knew in retrospect that they were not true. And I accepted his apology because he is a high-quality guy.
"I also said to him, 'You know Logan, it would be nice if that was made public because I'm hoping we do a deal with you. And I don't want people to think that the way you do a deal is to say something that's not true or involve ownership.'
"And I also want to be clear about this: Ownership of the New England Patriots does not get involved in the negotiation of contracts or make commitments to players. We bless the deals but we are not involved. We never make commitments.
"He understood that and he said 'Look, Mr. Kraft, I feel bad. I will correct what I said either when I sign with the New England Patriots or if I get traded and sign somewhere else.' And he said that 'my hope and intention is that I'll be a Patriot and go into the Patriots hall of fame.' And I said the same thing to him. And then there's been a negotiation but we have never had a deal."
Mankins, a two-time Pro Bowl player, would have been an unrestricted free agent under the rules of the last CBA. However, when the owners opted out of the deal, triggering 2010's uncapped year, only players with six years in the NFL gained unrestricted status. Mankins has refused to sign his $3.26 million restricted free-agent tender and play out the season.
Kraft reiterated his comments from Sunday that the team has made offers to Mankins but stressed that the two sides never had a deal in place.
"We made an offer that would allow him to be paid very well, like a Pro Bowl guard," Kraft told WEEI. "I'm not sure his people felt it was appropriate. I know it was comparable with [Jets lineman] Nick Mangold's salary [seven years, $55 million].
"And I understand there is a back and forth and each side has to do what they think is right for their side and that's part of this business. But at no time, and that's what I want to stress, at no time have we ever had a deal with Logan."