Will Pats walk it like they talk it with Mankins?

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Will Pats walk it like they talk it with Mankins?

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - He's gone from pissed off to Pro Bowler in the span of eight weeks. Logan Mankins, honored Tuesday night with his third Pro Bowl selection, is one of the NFL's most intriguing stories. But because of the tight-lipped nature of the Patriots and the smiling reticence of their left guard to entertain questions, it's hard to pin down the dynamic between the Pats and their best offensive lineman. On Wednesday, Bill Belichick was asked about Mankins' impact since returning to the team inWeek 9, three weeks before he had to in order to be credited with a "season played" in 2010."He's been outstanding, on and off the field," Belichick said. "He brings a great attitude and work ethic, superior toughness to the field and to the football team and that unit. Just an outstanding performer, a smart guy who doesn't make any mistakes, plays hard, runpass, every down, from the snap to the whistle, from the first play to the last play. Very consistent player. Always has been. He's shown that this year; it doesn't matter whether it's a Friday practice or the fourth quarter or the first play of the game, he's very, very consistent. And good. Very good." So how does the loftypraise jibewith the fact Mankins is playing for 866,250 this season, is a likely free agent at the end of the season (CBA uncertainty prevents us from being, well, certain) and is on record as saying he wanted to be traded and hasn't said anything yet to indicate he'll be sticking around. Mankins dryly answered when asked if the uncertainty of his future has him playing harder. "Not really," he said. "I don't know if you ever watched any of our games, but I tend to play hard a majority of the time, so I don't think I'm playing for a contract right now."

Can the Patriots let a player like that storm off? Or merely walk away? Especially when aging but still useful left tackle Matt Light is headed toward free agency as well. Belichick parried by saying, "Right now, it's just about getting ready for Miami. There are a lot of other things we can talk about, but none of them apply at this particular time."The lay of the land, best as we can read it, is that there's a yawning disconnect between the football and business sides of things on Mankins. The Patriots value him. So much that they offered him a five-year deal that would have put him in the top-five highest paid players at his position. And while that may seem a little modest given that Belichick seems to feel he's as good as anybody, you have to remember Mankins was a restricted free agent this past offseason. He was under the Patriots' control but hoping to be paid as if he was on the open market. Now, it seems the tack being taken is to kill Mankins with kindness while driving a wedge between the player and his old-school agent, Frank Bauer.Bauer, in my opinion, screwed this deal up royally. Instead of the 3.2 million tender Mankins could have been playing under, or the 40 million or so multityear deal he could have signed, Mankins is making less than a million and currently unprotected long-term if he were to suffer a catastrophic injury. Proclamations made by Bauer that the Patriots had "totally lost" Mankins seem absurd now. What remains to be seen is whether Mankins is willing to stay, or is just smiling through his situation as he waits to doff his cap to New England, hug his teammates and coaches, whip off the front office, and head to free agency.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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NFL Network's Ian Rapoport says it's "a real possibility" Bennett leaves given the asking price and potential offers.

Less than an hour later, the unrestricted free agent sent out a tweet responding to speculation about his future.

Bennett, who will 30 years old in March, had seven touchdowns in 19 games in his first season with the New England Patriots. 

 

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LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.