Crafting a Mankins deal for both sides

On January 30, well before the Patriots and nose tackle Vince Wilfork reached agreement on a five-year, $40 million contract, a media-based contract proposal was crafted on this blog.

The proposal helped detail the current market conditions, looked at some of the different dynamics in play, and attempted to take into account what was important for both sides, with no agendas involved.

Here is a similar attempt at a proposal for the Patriots and guard Logan Mankins.

Term: 6 years (through 2015 season)

Total value: $48.2 million

Signing/roster bonus: $17 million (the most important part of any deal)

Base salaries: 2010: $3.2 million; 2011: 3.5 million; 2012: $3.5 million; 2013: $5.5 million; 2014: $6.75 million; 2015: $8.75 million

How the numbers were computed: The first step in a negotiation is finding a comparable player who recently signed a similar deal. New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans, who like Mankins was a restricted free agent and is a perennial Pro Bowler, signed a seven-year, $56.7 million contract ($8.1 million average per season) in early May. The deal reportedly pays $25.7 million over the first three years.

Protections for Patriots: Mankins is a restricted free agent, not on the open market as an unrestricted free agent. So in that sense, the Patriots don’t have to do anything. While that might upset Mankins, who would have been unrestricted if not for a change to a season without a salary cap, Mankins’ disappointment seems better directed at the NFL Players Association than the team for that. With that in mind, this proposed deal will include the same base salary in the first year that Mankins would have received this year as a restricted free agent ($3.2 million). The base salaries will gradually increase over the length of the deal.

Protections for Mankins: With the threat of no football in 2011, it is important to receive an up-front signing bonus that provides the long-term security desired. A signing or roster bonus in the $17 million range, coupled with the 2010 base salary of $3.2 million, means Mankins would receive $20 million this season.

Why it works for the Patriots: Mankins is the team’s best offensive lineman. Rewarding him with up-front money this year and then adding five more seasons to his deal is good business.

Why it works for Mankins: By cashing in now, he no longer incurs the risk of making it through a season healthy in hopes of a possible richer deal as an unrestricted free agent, and avoids the possibility of the team assigning him the franchise tag – should it be an option – next offseason.

Conclusion: When Logan Mankins decided to stay away from the Patriots’ offseason program for the first time, one of the reasons cited by agent Frank Bauer was that the team had promised him a contract proposal that had yet to be delivered. The team has since made an undisclosed proposal. Any proposal should reflect Mankins’ standing in the marketplace as a top guard, but also factor in that he is not an unrestricted free agent. This seems like a fair middle ground.