A trade that actually works out for all parties involved seems like it should only exist in some sort of happy, magical land, a place where a 99-pack of beer is something we have invented (wait, what?).
But this trade just might be it. Yes, we’re witnessing history here, though maybe we should exercise a bit of caution because it involves Bill Belichick, and his evil veteran jettisoning sorcery.
As Jay Glazer first reported, the New England Patriots will be sending guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, getting tight end Tim Wright in return along with a 2015 fourth-round draft pick. The deal isn’t finalized yet, but Glazer also reports the players have been informed, and now only minor details have to be worked out (translation: physicals).
When we break it down for both sides, the benefits are mutual.
The Buccaneers get…
A Carl Nicks replacement, and just generally a body on their offensive line which rises above adequate.
In 2012 the Bucs signed Nicks to a five-year contract that maxed out at $47.5 million. His duty? To be the cornerstone of their offensive line. He was the ripe age of 27 years old at the time, meaning he was signed through his prime years.
That dream derailed fast. First Nicks battled through a toe injury, and then later a staph infection that has ended his career, at least for now. He appeared in only nine games for the Bucs, so prior to today’s trade their O-line was mighty creaky.
It had reached dumpster fire status. Last year a Bucs quarterback was sacked 47 times, tied for the fifth highest total in the league. Of that, it was Mike Glennon plucking dirt from his gums 40 times, even though he didn’t start the first three weeks. That’s a pretty painful pace of three sacks per game. Much like his Florida counterpart Ryan Tannehill, Glennon was rarely given a fair chance last year while faced with intense pressure.
Enter Mankins, who’s been to six Pro Bowls. At 32 years old he’s not exactly a young guy anymore, but Pro Football Focus rated him as the league’s 18th best guard. He’s good then, and perhaps not great overall, especially against a pass rush after allowing nine sacks last year, the second most of any guard. But “good” is still a significant upgrade.
The main benefit here comes on the ground, as Mankins excels as a run blocker, with PFF rating him as the fourth-best guard when opening running daylight. That’s critical for the Bucs, because even after their high draft investment made in wide receiver Mike Evans, they’ll still be powered by Doug Martin. He’s only a year removed from logging 1,926 yards from scrimmage as a rookie.
There’s still an odor coming from the offensive line Mankins is joining, and at times new quarterback Josh McCown won’t enjoy life. But that stench has been upgraded today from rotten tomatoes, to the sandwich meat you jammed in the back of the fridge and forgot about for two weeks.
The Patriots get…
Well, they mostly get money. Lots and lots of money.
Though Wright has value and he could fill an important role while being a poor man’s Aaron Hernandez (minus the murdering, of course), the main motivation here is cash. From the Patriots’ perspective, this comes down to the first code Belichick scribbled down when he wrote The Patriot Way: rid yourself of expensive veterans, preferably right before they decline and become worthless.
Mankins reached his peak long ago, and he may have already started that gradual fade, though often interior linemen age more gracefully. Again, the Bucs are fine with that, because on their end a declining Mankins is still a significant upgrade. But for Belichick, the benefit lies in the over $10 million he just gained.
That’s the difference between the cap hit Mankins was scheduled for this season, and the cost Wright will be on the books for in 2014. Some dead money is attached to Mankins’ contract that can be spread out over the next two years ($8 million), but in 2015 they save about $6.5 million, which goes up to $7 million in 2016, a lot of dollars that can be put in Darelle Revis’ pocket to secure him long-term.
As for Wright, he became expendable in Tampa after fellow human tower Austin Seferian-Jenkins was drafted. He fits the modern tight end mold: a tall, athletic pass catcher who’s truly a tight end in name only, and he can be effective while lined up from anywhere.
That’s where the low-level Aaron Hernandez image comes to mind, commonly called a “move” tight end. Hernandez was often lined up the slot, in the backfield, and split out wide. While Rob Gronkowski did the brute heavy lifting up the middle, Hernandez was used far more creatively.
Wright may lack the same skill, but he has the versatility. Even in a limited role last year he still caught 54 passes for 571 yards with five touchdowns. He’ll also provide a sense of security while playing behind the oft-injured Gronkowski, and bring added depth to a group of receiving options that Tom Brady struggle to click with for much of last season.