Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Looking at Logan Mankins's situation

The Patriots have, potentially, a major problem on their hands. Star guard and restricted free agent Logan Mankins refused to sign the restricted free agent tender, had his salary slashed, and is demanding a trade.

This time, it's hard to point the finger at the Patriots' front office for this negotiating breakdown.

Mankins isn't in the company of Asante Samuel and Richard Seymour, premier players who were allowed to walk rather than given fair offers by New England. The Patriots have tried to sign Mankins, and it hasn't been enough.

The Patriots have the reputation of being cheap with impending free agents and fiscal with contracts, but that isn't the case with this situation. New England's offered Mankins, a Pro-Bowler and important part of the offense, a five-year, $35 million deal. It would make him one of the top five highest-paid players in the NFL at his position.

And it's not enough.

It appears Mankins is taking the same stance Darrelle Revis is taking in New York. Both saw others at their position break the bank earlier (Nnamdi Asomugha with Oakland, Steve Hutchinson in Minnesota), so position in the top group doesn't matter anymore. What's important is being close to that top contract.

Making seven million a year may be more than almost all the other guards in the league, but if it's still three million (for example) less than the top contract, it's not good enough.

The Patriots have made their offer, and Mankins isn't backing down. This could be a lingering issue for New England throughout the summer.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jets the new AFC East favorites?

There are a lot of things New England fans would be happy to say about the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets - many of which aren't printable if we want to protect the PG nature of this blog.

But early 2010 has provided us with something else you have to say about Rex Ryan and Co.: They knew what this year meant.

The Jets have taken a no holds barred approach to a no holds barred offseason, gleefully working with the absence of the salary cap to bring in veterans such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor, stars like Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie, and a potential dynamic rookie in cornerback Kyle Wilson.

They're all moves that signify that this is the year for the Men in the Meadowlands - but is it?

The Jets have reloaded an already stocked defense. With Cromarite, Wilson and stud cover man Darrelle Revis, it'll be hard to throw on the Jets. With Shaun Ellis and the return of vaunted nose tackle Kris Jenkins, it'll be hard to run on the Jets.

The offense has arguably gotten better. With Holmes, electrifying (albeit drop-prone) Braylon Edwards, emerging tight end Dustin Keller and a fearsome duo of Shonn Greene and Tomlinson at the running back position, it'll be hard to defend the Jets, as well.

The Jets, however, did lose productive running back Thomas Jones, Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, and hard-hitting safety Kerry Rhodes.

So are the Jets better? And have they passed the Patriots?

Conventionally, one would say no. The division champ is still the champ until taken down, and in football, individuality is thrown out more than in any other sport. The Jets unquestionably added talent. Did they add the right team pieces, however, is a different question, and one that won't be answered until the 2010 season gets underway.

Still, a look at the roster shows the Jets will be incredibly difficult to match up against. Their defense gave teams fits throughout the year, and was almost enough to carry New York, not even a playoff team entering the final week, into the Super Bowl. That defense has gotten better, and more versatile.

Furthermore, the Patriots don't have the playmaking ability (as of yet) to match up with New York. Brandon Meriweather is New England's big play hope. Otherwise, the defense is filled with steady players that make the play that comes their way, but rarely branch out of their roles to make the plays that can turn a game around. The Jets, on the other hand, are built for those chances.

The Patriots had glaring issues that were only partly addressed in the draft. They still can't rush the passer. They'll still be questionable in defending top-tier quarterbacks. The wide receiver position is still deteriorating, more so with the loss of Wes Welker, though the addition of Torry Holt helps.

That's not to say they don't have talented players. But the Patriots will have a weekly edge in only two spots: the quarterback and head coach. Everything else can be neutralized.

And with the Jets ready to make a statement this year, that's not a good thing.

Wheatley out of room?

Terrence Wheatley appears committed towards making an impact with the New England Patriots.

The problem is, he might have run out of time already.

In an article written by ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, Wheatley (shown left defending Randy Moss in training camp) said he is determined to show what he can do, and that there are no more "free years".

Well, that's the problem. There never were "free years". In the NFL, and especially as a relatively high pick, you are judged and evaluated from the second you step on the field. Every play you make says something. And every play you miss says something about you as well.

Wheatley, after being drafted in 2008, was expected to begin making progress in establishing a spot in a weakened Patriots secondary that had already lost Asante Samuel and Randall Gay.

Flash forward to today. It's been two years, and due to injuries, the Patriots staff has no more idea of what to expect from Wheatley than they did when they took him 62nd overall out of Colorado.

Furthermore, the Patriots have moved on. Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden have been added via free agency, and the team has given significant playing time to Jonathan Wilhite and promising sophomore Darius Butler.

And, in what might be the sign that Wheatley is on life support, New England passed over other areas of concern to address the cornerback position once more in this year's draft, selecting Rutgers product Devin McCourty 27th overall.

Add it up, and there's at least five corners on the depth chart ahead of Wheatley, with no reason to expect a full season out of the brittle 5-foot-9, 183-pounder.

Wheatley may be ready to play. Whether the Patriots are ready to let him is a different story.