Mankins is a six-time Pro Bowler who may make his seventh this year as an alternate. He’s a captain on the team who’s become a locker-room favorite, and a fan favorite for many.
A man of unfortunate timing, Mankins joined the Patriots right after a Super Bowl victory, and was traded the season they would win their next. Despite all his years in New England protecting Tom Brady, Mankins never received a ring.
Now, at nearly 34 years of age, the 11-year vet is pondering retirement. A career which should lead to him being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, would come to an end without reaching the peak of his profession, but he wouldn’t be alone.
Unfortunately, there are many players in the Hall of Fame carrying the burden of having never won the big game. The Hall of Fame is also filled with another type of player. One who has played past his prime, and was cut or forced into retirement due to business decisions rather than personal ones.
There’s no doubt the Buccaneers like Mankins, but this is as they say, a business. For what it’s worth, the Buccaneers shouldn’t cut Mankins. By all measures he’s still very effective, and has proved to be a wise mentor to the younger members of the offense. They also shouldn’t convince him to stay either. Mankins is regressing, and with an up-and-coming offense they need pieces they can forge together into an efficient machine primed to make a run at consistency, which has eluded the Buccaneers offense for their entire existence.
Finally, Mankins’ retirement would net the Buccaneers a $7 million increase in cap space. Granted, money doesn’t buy wins – just ask Dan Snyder – but it does allow a team like the Bucs to aggressively pursue the types of players who bring wins. Players like Eric Berry, Josh Norman, or Olivier Vernon.
Further making the departure of Mankins acceptable is the presence of young Kevin Pamphile who played well in limited action, and Evan Smith who has proven to be a versatile lineman who plays smart where his physical talents don’t necessarily measure up.
Losing Mankins would not be easy, but the Buccaneers have the talent to absorb the loss, and options in the draft and free agent market to address it if needed. The money it would free up offers a silver lining which would allow the Buccaneers to bring in one of several game-breaking talents projected to be searching for new teams in 2016.