The Patriots have agreed to trade Mankins, who has made six of the past seven Pro Bowls, to Tampa Bay for tight end Tim Wright and a draft pick. The deal was first reported by Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, while ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the pick as a fourth-rounder. Usually when the Patriots move on from a player, there's a good reason. Mankins is 32 years old but still a solid player. He finished 18th among guards in Pro Football Focus' 2013 grades and is 10th in their preseason grades this year. He surely represents an enormous upgrade for the Buccaneers, whose offensive line play this preseason has been frightening, especially at guard.
So maybe this is more about Gronkowski than Mankins?
Wright is an intriguing, big and athletic tight end who converted to the position after playing receiver in college. He had 571 yards and five touchdowns last season. He will be insurance if Gronkowski, coming off an ACL surgery, is not quite himself early in the season. Gronkowski has yet to play in the preseason, but has been working in 11-on-11 drills and has remained confident that he'll play all 16 games this season. The move to trade a Pro Bowl guard to get Wright might mean the Patriots are worried about that.
It's an interesting NFL trade on a few levels. Do the Patriots think Mankins is nearing the end and they're cashing in while they can? Are they worried about Gronkowski's health? Or do they simply like 24-year-old Wright, entering his second year, so much that they were willing to pay a high price to get him, and he can be a great complement to Gronkowski? It's not like the Patriots haven't used two tight ends effectively in the past.
Whatever the real reason, one should assume the Patriots have something up their sleeve here.
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