Pats mix praise, exasperation when tagging Mankins

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Pats mix praise, exasperation when tagging Mankins

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com
The Patriots issued a statement after applying the franchise tag to Logan Mankins. And when I say, "the Patriots," that's what I mean. The quote - which mixed high praise followed by apparent agitation with a lack of progress in getting a deal done - wasn't attributed to anyone. Mighta come from someone with the last name Kraft. Mighta come from a guy with the initials BB. Maybe BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead fashioned it. Whatever. Here's the nice portion: "Logan Mankins is a tremendous player. He has been a fixture on our offensive line since we drafted him in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft and he remains an important part of our future plans."And here's the exasperated portion: "Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach a long-term agreement, despite many attempts and proposals by both sides. That remains our objective in utilizing the franchise designation and we are hopeful that Logan will be a Patriot for many years to come." It's important for the Patriots to note that their objective is to get a long-term agreement done. The purpose of the tag is not to restrict movement and keep players from cashing in as unrestricted free agents. The purpose is to get a workable deal for both sides in place. Expect the NFLPA to challenge the Patriots' right to apply this tag. And they have a point. Franchise tags can be handed down during a window which begins 20 days before a new league year begins. There is no 2011 league year currently since there is no collective bargaining agreement in place. So how can the Patriots franchise a player in a year that doesn't exist? Well, they just did.Whether that holds up if and when the NFLPA challenges their right to do that is another story. Still, the franchise tag isn't going away so, even if the court tosses the Patriots' right to use it, once a new CBA comes down, teams needing to use the tag will undoubtedly have a window in which to do so. Mankins is one of the best interior linemen in football. He was an All Pro in 2010 despite playing in only nine games. At the Pro Bowl last month, he said he'd be unhappy if he was franchised. Voila. Of course, Mankins has been unhappy before. Last season, he was a restricted free agent. He turned his nose up to the 3.1 million tender offer, insisting he had been promised a long-term deal. The Patriots made offers that, according to sources, would have made Mankins one of the highest-paid guards in the league. And while Mankins may have been a better player than those paid more handsomely, giving a restricted free agent a long-term deal should have some benefits for the employer. But Mankins stood firm even as his tender offer was halved. He waited until after the seventh game and wound up playing for less than 900,000 in 2010. The tag the Patriots applied is "non-exclusive" meaning Mankins and his agent Frank Bauer are free to negotiate with other teams to get a deal done. Any team wishing to sign Mankins would have to cough up two first-round picks as compensation, unless the Patriots were willing to settle for less. They could be. But the most likely scenario is Mankins plays for the estimated 10.1 million this year (guaranteed) and then the process begins anew next March. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

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Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Branch's agent later confirmed the news on Twitter.

Word of Branch's punishment, which stemmed from what was reported as a positive marijuana test, became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, though. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. He also stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can now focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.