The business-vs.-football battle over Mankins


The business-vs.-football battle over Mankins

By Tom E. Curran
On an Indianapolis sidewalk last week, the agent for Logan Mankins said he's never seen a head coach work harder to get a deal done than Bill Belichick has workedon Mankins. So if the head coach and de facto GM is working hard and wants it done, what's the holdup? Has to be somewhere else in the building, right?Frank Bauer, Mankins' agent,hasn't expertly managedhis client's effort to get a new contract, but the landscape in New England right now is a little bit confusing. On one hand, you have Belichick, Tom Brady and most every other person who doesn't wear a suit to the office squarely in support of the decorated left guard. Work ethic, commitment, skill, effort, importance to the team - all are buzzwords we've been hearing since last offseason. On the other hand,there's ownerRobert Kraft. He'ssaying all the right things publicly but the number of times Kraft has felt compelled to either address or inject himself into the public discussion of Mankins indicates a negotiation that's unique during the Belichick Era. Business and football are at loggerheads. Kraft seemed to deny involvement in negotiations on WEEI back in September when he said ownership will "bless" contracts but not embroil itself. If that's the case, this negotiation's been damned. Mankins threw the first public punch, that's for sure. He told Mike Reiss of back in June that ownership was unwilling to do an extension because of CBA uncertainty. He questioned Kraft's principles. A month later, vice chairman Jonathan Kraft told me Mankins "seriously misspoke" when challenging Kraft. In September, it was reported that a deal was close with Mankins until Robert Kraft requested a public apology from the player and that Mankins refused. Kraft took to EEI to deny. He didn't deny asking for the apology, only thata deal was close. "I also said, Logan, it would be nice if that (apology) was made public because Im hoping we do a deal with you and I dont want people to think that the way you do a deal is to say something that is not true or involve ownership," Kraft told 'EEIWhen Mankins reported, Kraft took a little victory lap saying, "Im happy hes with the team," adding, You can't always believe everything you read in the media."At the Super Bowl, Kraft again alleged the media was confusing matters when he said, "Logan Mankins is one of the best players on the team," Kraft said. "I think there has been a little misunderstanding about some things that have been written."When pressed about what was misunderstood, Kraft ignored the question. These oblique references to media misinformation are a little maddening since the Patriots control their ownflow of information. Something's messed up? Well, what is it? Because the guy who's laying it out there most regularly is Frank Bauer. And he paints a picture of a football team and a football coach that wants a certain bearded football player in the fold long term. But he says the business operation is bent on making Mankins grovel. We can debate the seeming propriety of a player turning his nose up to a 10 million franchise tag for a season of play. We can argue whether Mankins deserved to be paid top dollar at his position when he wasn't a free agent based on his talent.All good talk. But what's interesting here is thebehind-the-scenes tug of war (which will inevitably be pooh-poohed) that's exists between football and business.

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade


It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.