Expect Patriots to franchise Mankins

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Expect Patriots to franchise Mankins

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

Beginning Thursday, NFL franchises believe they canusetheir franchise tags to keep would-be unrestricted free agents from hitting the open market in 2011. If you've been paying a sliver of attention, you may be wondering what "open market" exists to be hit. The collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners expires at 11:59 p.m. on March 3 when the 2010 "league year" ends. There is no agreement governing the 2011 season. That means no free agency, no trades, no payment, no nothing until a new deal is reached. It means a lockout by the owners. Butwhile the league believes it can start applying franchise tags because their window for using themcomes before the CBA expires, the NFLPA says, "Whaaaa . . . ? How can you restrict a player from becoming a free agent in a league year that doesn't exist?"This is the union's viewpoint on it disseminated last week by my oldnew partner Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com. Here's the league's vantage point (our buddy Greg Bedard at The Boston Globe had the first confirmation of tag intentions). What's the pertinence around here? Logan Mankins. After spending 2010 under a restricted free agent tender, the All-Pro left guard still has no long-term deal. Mankins told Karen Guregian of The Boston Herald at the Pro Bowl he believes he's done in New England. The Patriots have no intention of allowing Mankins to go anywhere. Absent getting a long-term deal done, sources have told me they intend to use the franchise tag on him.You're wondering what happens if the players are right and the use of the franchise tag is, for lack of a better word, illegal? Well, where's Mankins going to sign before a new CBA gets done? Nowhere. And - according to sources close to the negotiations - there currently is no battle over whether or not franchise tags will exist when the new CBA is hammered out. They should be available. Here's the scenario. The Patriots apply a tag. The NFLPA takes the league to court and a judge says, "Yeah, can't do that. These guys aren't franchised," there willalmost certainly be a window prior to free agency that allows players to be franchised and kept off the market, even if it's a compressed 24-hour window. I'm told the franchise tag just isn't an important enough issue impacting rank-and-file players for the NFLPA to dig in on.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Steelers descending into disarray?

Steelers descending into disarray?

Less than 48 hours removed from openly wondering if the AFC Championship Game stage was “too big” for some of his young teammates, Ben Roethlisberger has decided to play the latter-day Hamlet/Brett Favre game.

Speaking on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday, Roethlisberger hinted at retirement.

“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger said. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season. All those things. I think at this point in my career, at my age, that’s the prudent and smart thing to do every year.”

The soon-to-be-35-year-old Roethlisberger is a likely Hall of Famer who’s still arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. But for whatever reason, he’s got an insatiable need for people to register concern about his status. Whether it be limping around the field, lamenting injuries or this, few quarterbacks in the league go through the same histrionics Roethlisberger does in order to get those, “Attaboy, Ben!” backslaps.

I remember being at Steelers training camp in 2009 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and having veteran Steelers writers roll their eyes as Roethlisberger started hopping around like he was on hot coals after a throw. The quarterback having an owie act was a daily tradition.

Roethlisberger’s also got a passive aggressive side in which he’ll deftly twist the knife on coaches and teammates but leave himself enough room for plausible deniability.

In addition to openly wondering if his young teammates took the AFC Championship Game seriously enough, Roethlisberger gave the “just running the plays as I’m told” answer when asked about the Steelers resistance to running a quarterback sneak when they were at the Patriots goal line before halftime. Roethlisberger could have taken offensive coordinator Todd Haley off the hook there – he’s lobbied for Haley to get a head coaching shot after the two had a bad relationship when Haley arrived. But he opted not to.

Similarly, earlier this year, Roethlisberger’s critiques of the way head coach Mike Tomlin was running the team were aired. 

So, this could be part of a Roethlisberger power play aimed at the Steelers bowing to his wishes.

That wasn’t the only tidbit from Pittsburgh that looked bad for the AFC finalists. Linebacker Bud Dupree said the Steelers were surprised by the Patriots using an up-tempo offense earlier in the game. 

Do they not have electricity or internet access in the Steelers facility? Up-tempo is a staple part of the Patriots offensive diet. You can see it on the television or the internet through your smart phone.

While there’s no doubt that defensive coordinator Keith Butler – and defensive minded head coach Tomlin – were aware and talked about the Patriots going no-huddle, the fact Dupree (and his teammates) were unable to recall the preparation or adequately fall into an emergency plan to address it does fall on the coaches.

Need more? It’s also being leaked out of the building that Antonio Brown cares too much about his statistics. He made clear last week how much he cares about advancing his personal brand at the expense of Tomlin and the team with his Facebook Live video. 

If there’s an upside for anyone in all this, it would have to be Joey Porter. Nobody’s even talking about his off-field fracas anymore.

As this season ably demonstrated, the Patriots have plum run out of authentic rivals in the AFC. That the team they just pulverized is steamrolling into an offseason of dysfunction and uncertainty isn't good if you like parity. But it's terrific if you couldn't care less.