The Patriots opened the offseason floodgates so to speak when the team was the first in the league to use its franchise designation, showing their Valentine's Day love by slapping the tag on All-Pro guard Logan Mankins on Feb. 14.
The team included a praiseful yet unattributed quote in a press release announcing the move:
"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. 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."
Though Mankins has not spoken about getting hit with the franchise tag this week - and it's expected guaranteed, one-year salary of approximately $10.1 million for 2011 - the former first-round pick had previously expressed distaste for the tag.
"I wouldn't be happy about that, if that's what they choose to do, to be dealt that kind of hand," Mankins said at the Pro Bowl.
But unhappiness is nothing new between Mankins and the Patriots. One of the many players forced into restricted free agency rather than hitting the truly open market last spring due to the rules of the uncapped year, Mankins butted heads with New England all summer and into the fall.
Along the way, the team's best offensive lineman asked for a trade, was very critical in the media as to how the Patriots had treated him and then sat out the first seven games of the season. After returning, though, he had an impressive positive impact on the field as he played in nine games on the way to earning All-Pro and Pro-Bowl recognition.
The Patriots have said that much of the acrimony from the last year of negotiations that's been portrayed in the press has been blown out of proportion.
"Logan Mankins is one of the best players on the team," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said at the Super Bowl. "I think there has been a little misunderstanding about some things that have been written. I just personally want to say, I hope he's with us for a long term and we're going to try to do whatever we have to do to make sure that happens."
But Mankins has admitted the business side of things has left some scars and soured him a bit in his dealings with New England.
"I don't know. I guess there is," he told the Boston Herald. "But I've gotten past it. I just learned it's a business the hard way."
The next step in learning that business was being hit with New England's franchise tag on Feb. 14, one that Mankins clearly wanted no part of. But it was only a year ago that Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork was hit with a franchise tag that he wanted no part of. A couple weeks later Wilfork had the long-term, $40 million extension he was looking for.
Could a similar fate play out for Mankins? Will any negotiations be held up by the overall labor issues that are holding the entire league hostage right now? Or are the Patriots and their best offensive lineman in for another summer of contentious negotiations?