For once, Logan Mankins is (fairly) healthy during an offseason.
Last season, the Pro Bowl guard had to have surgery to repair a torn ACL. Most players who tear an ACL have surgery immediately after, but not Mankins. He played the entire season on the torn ACL -- missing just one game -- and opted for surgery after the season.
Mankins missed six games due to various injuries this season, but at least he won't be hitting the operating table this offseason, writes Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald:
"I'm excited," said Mankins, who visited the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital. "At this time last year, I hadn't even had surgery yet, so I'll be training here pretty soon in a few weeks. It's going to be a great offseason for me, I think. My legs will get back to where they used to be. I'll be in the kind of shape I want to be when the season starts. I'm actually pretty excited about this offseason."
Despite missing six games, Mankins was still named a Pro Bowler for the fourth consecutive season. That's how good the eight-year veteran was in the midst of knee, ankle and hip injuries.
When it comes to making sure players are healthy for next season, Mankins is at the top of the list for the Patriots.
Mankins is the anchor of the offensive line that protects future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. He's played left guard his entire career. He joined the Patriots after being selected No. 32 overall in the 2005 NFL Draft. According to Pro Football Reference, Mankins has had the best career of any offensive lineman drafted in 2005.
The recent plague of injuries has forced Mankins to miss seven games over the last two seasons -- that number would have been much higher if he sat out after tearing his ACL in 2011. Before 2010, Mankins was nearly unstoppable, as he didn't miss a game in his first five seasons. In 2010, he missed seven games, but that was because he was a holdout, not because of any injury.
With a fairly young and inexperienced offensive line, Mankins is as valuable as ever. The man to his left, Nate Solder, will be 25 and in his third year in 2013. Center Ryan Wendell, at 26, played in his first season as a starter last year. Right guard Dan Connolly is the only other lineman over the age of 30. Finally, 28-year-old Sebastian Vollmer is the team's right tackle, but he's an unrestricted free agent.
Other than Mankins' surgery-free offseason, the other news involving the former Fresno State lineman regards his contract.
Mankins is on the books as the third largest cap hit for the Patriots next season at $10 million. Only Brady ($21.8 million) and Vince Wilfork ($10.6) will count against the salary cap more next season.
Greg Knopping at Pats Pulpit wonders: Is Mankins worth it?
With Logan Mankins signing a contract extension just in 2011, he wouldn't seemingly be a candidate to restructure. However, considering his recent run of injuries and the fact that he's on the wrong side of 30, you might wonder if the Patriots think he's worth that $10 million a year number.
However, the Patriots aren't in salary cap jail -- despite Brady, Wilfork and Mankins chewing up 35 percent of the cap space. The Patriots have approximately $18 million to work with this offseason. Their biggest re-signing concerns are wide receivers Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, cornerback Aqib Talib and Vollmer.
Welker will take a steep price to come back, something the Patriots might not want to commit -- at least, they haven't shown any sign to do so over the last year or so. Re-signing Edelman would be cheap, while signing a receiver like St. Louis's Danny Amendola could help fill Welker's role next season.
Talib would solidify the Patriots' secondary next season -- something he immediately did when the Patriots acquired him in November -- but the Patriots only want a one-year deal. If they franchise him, Talib would cost roughly $10 million -- the same as Mankins.
Could Mankins be cut to clear cap space? It's possible, but not likely. The Patriots need to re-sign Vollmer to keep the offensive line intact. With Brady turning 36 in August, the Patriots want to see him upright and healthy more than ever. The best way to do that is to keep one of the best left guards in football and re-sign one of the better young right tackles in the game.
It's more likely the Patriots let their free agents go and try to replace them with the cheaper counterparts (a Bill Belichick staple) than to cut someone like Mankins, who has years of Pro Bowl-type production left.