Structure of big deals & Mankins

Big deals are happening across the NFL despite the uncertain labor forecast.

Jets center Nick Mangold is the latest, joining Broncos outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, Broncos guard Chris Kuper, Texans receiver Andre Johnson, Saints guard Jahri Evans, Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn and Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson as those who have signed long-term deals in recent months.

These contracts prove that even though owners don't know what the financial landscape will look like in 2011 and beyond, striking a big deal is still possible.

The key is compromise.

In the majority of deals above, including Mangold's, one aspect that stands out is that players aren't receiving big-time payments in 2010. Other than the Saints' Evans and a few others, that seems to be the main concession from the players' side -- they get a little sweetener this year but assume the risk to get the big money in 2011.

On the owners' side, the concession is making a long-term commitment at a certain financial level without knowing the potential salary cap rules to be adopted.

So applying this to the Patriots and Logan Mankins, if the sides are interested in finding a middle ground, these seem to be the two key questions based on the current market conditions:

1. Would the Patriots be willing to slightly sweeten Mankins' total payments this year, perhaps to the $5-6 million range, before Evans- and Mangold-level payments kick in next year when they don't know the financial landscape?

2. Would Mankins, who had the expectation that he would receive his big payday this year after playing out his original five-year contract, be willing to assume the risk of waiting until 2011 for the big part of his deal to be paid?