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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Patriots Always Keep Us On Our Toes, Always

One of the main reasons that the Patriots have put together this incredible sustained run of success (besides the supreme skill of Tom Brady) is that head coach Bill Belichick is never afraid to make a bold move. Today was a perfect example, as names of random guys cut (rosters go down to 75 this afternoon) emerged, the Patriots unleashed a real bombshell: they traded six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers for tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round draft pick in 2015.

New England's offensive line hasn't been one of their strengths the last few seasons as they've shuffled through a million young guys and journeymen. One constant the whole time though was Mankins who was a first-round pick in 2005 out of Fresno State. He was tough, smart, very accountable and easy to root for which is usually the case with offensive linemen-the unsung heroes of football. This feels like nothing more than a calculated business decision by Belichick.

At 32, Mankins' best days are probably behind him. It's difficult to quantify offensive linemen play but those that know more about the game than me have said that Mankins' play was slipping the last few years, he's still a great run blocker but shaky in the passing game (which is what the sport totally revolves around now).

Wright is an afterthought for most in the deal but he could play a significant role on the Patriots in 2014. As a rookie last season with the Bucs, he made 54 catches for 571 yards and five touchdowns. If nothing else, he provides insurance for Rob Gronkowski (who has missed the playoffs in his last two seasons). A Rutgers product (of course!), Wright is known as more a pass catcher which Tom Brady could use rather than a blocker like Michael Hoomanawanui or various other scrubs they've shuffled in on a daily basis.

This is a good reminder that in the NFL, particularly on a team like the Patriots, few jobs are guaranteed from year to year. In my opinion, it's the toughest pro league to make in the U.S. since careers are so short and subject to a million different circumstances many of which are out of players' control. I hope that Mankins plays well in Tampa Bay and helps to turn that franchise around. The Buccaneers have been mostly a mess for the past decade and he's just the kind of guy to help them get back to their former winning ways.

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