By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff
These are two guys whose situations couldn’t be more different, but both have been on my mind quite a bit this week.
First, lets talk for a minute about Logan Mankins.
Neither Mankins nor his agent are doing themselves any favors these days. After rejecting the Patriots offer earlier this summer, one that is reported to have been a seven year, $45.5 million deal ($6.5 million average). Mankins considered that a slap in the face compared to what Jahri Evans got from the Saints – a seven-year, $56.7 million deal ($8.1 million average). More than that, Mankins expressed outrage at what he felt was a betrayal and that he had been lied to by the team and ownership.
The Patriots have wisely been silent on the matter, but Mankins’ agent and friends have spoken up several times, such as to Ian Rapoport in today’s Herald.
The latest ploy appears to be Don’t think Logan needs money! He doesn’t spend money! He’s got every dime he made in his career! He has a fully paid for, sustainable farm! (How’d he do that without spending money?) He’ll sit out the season without hesitation! He’s got the money!
Yet, I thought this wasn’t about money. How about these huge offenses that the Patriots have allegedly committed against Mankins? Will they ever come out? All Rapoport alludes to is a supposed promise to pay Mankins more than Evans. But it’s not about the money! He doesn’t need the money!
Whatever. Mankins can sit out the season and hope that the new CBA makes him a free agent, but I don’t think that is likely to happen. He’s only damaging his own earning power with this stance.
Tyrone McKenzie is a guy you want to succeed. His story is well-documented by this point, you’re aware of his college career at three schools, and working nights to care for his sick mom, and the knee injury that wiped out his rookie season. We’re big fans of McKenzie because he gave Patriots Daily an exclusive interview – before he talked to the mainstream press this offseason.
McKenzie has been healthy this preseason, and has played in the two preseason games thus far, but in the eyes of many reporters covering the team, he is on the roster bubble. Most seem to be basing this on when McKenzie has come into the two games. He’s been among the latter linebackers to enter the game, even behind the immortal Eric Alexander this past week.
When making their assessments, reporters are placing a lot of emphasis on the special teams ability of players like Alexander and the versatility of a player like Thomas Williams, who has lined up at fullback a few times in camp.
I’m not fully on board with those assessments. In the Bill Belichick era, finding young players who can play inside linebacker has been a constant challenge. In the first part of the decade, it wasn’t so much an issue with Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson and Roman Phifer here. We knew in the back of our heads that those players were getting along in years and that replacements would be needed, but none could be found until Jerod Mayo was drafted in 2008. The media spouted the thought for several years that “Bill Belichick doesn’t drafted linebackers early” – until of course, he did. Some free agents were tried out (Monty Beisel, anyone?) and failed.
Clearly, finding talent at inside linebacker is a challenge. McKenzie appears to have talent. He also seems like a pretty smart player. I can’t swear to it, but I believe he’s been seen wearing the green dot on his helmet, indicating that he is the one receiving the defensive calls when he is in the game. I really, really don’t think that the Patriots are going to discard a player with potential at such a key position on their defense simply because some other guys can play special teams or line up at fullback.
As for why he’s coming into the games so late, I think it is a combination of things – he is still coming back from a severe knee injury, he’s being eased back into game action after not having played a real game in nearly two years, the team clearly wants to give Brandon Spikes as much playing time as feasible in the preseason to get him ramped up to be the starter on opening day, and the green dot – I think they want to have him learn the play calls, but putting him in at the end of the game perhaps makes it a bit easier to get some practice in with doing it.
I still think the Patriots will find a way to keep McKenzie on the team.