INDIANAPOLIS – The Patriots need to create salary cap space in the next few weeks to be able to sign free agents and their draft picks, and guard Logan Mankins is a prime candidate to help them out.
But a league source told the Globe late Wednesday night that the team has not yet approached the nine-year veteran guard about signing a contract extension that would lower his $10.5 million cap number for 2014.
Mankins, who turns 32 in March, has three years left on a six-year, $51 million contract that he signed in 2011, and has cap numbers of $10.5 million, $11 million and $7 million in the last three years of the deal. His cap number in 2014 is third-highest on the Patriots, behind Tom Brady ($14 million) and Vince Wilfork ($11.6 million).
Mankins is one of a handful of veterans who may be given a contract extension to lower their cap number to help the Patriots, who enter the offseason with less than $5 million in cap space, thanks mostly to a $7.5 million cap charge due to Aaron Hernandez. They may need to come up with a significant chunk of money if they want to resign Aqib Talib or Julian Edelman or sign any impact players when free agency opens on March 11.
Other candidates for contract extensions to help alleviate cap issues in 2014 include Wilfork (coming off an Achilles injury), Mayo ($7.2875 million cap number), Devin McCourty ($5.115 million) and Stephen Gostkowski ($3.8 million). All but Mayo are entering the last years of their contracts.
Several players may also be cut to create cap space, with Isaac Sopoaga ($2.5 million in savings), Adrian Wilson ($1.2 million), Dan Connolly ($3 million) and Tommy Kelly ($2.1 million) as potential candidates.
Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio and Michael Lombardi, who joined the organization last week after being fired as Browns general manager, arrived in Indianapolis Wednesday afternoon and will be meeting with agents and draft prospects throughout the weekend.
A source said that Mankins would be open to a contract extension if the Patriots do approach him, especially if it includes a new signing bonus, but Mankins doesn’t feel pressured to do a deal. Of his $10.5 million cap number for 2014, he would still cost the Patriots $8 million in cap space were they to cut him (not that they would likely do that).
In other Patriots offensive line news, the team also hasn’t approached center Ryan Wendell, an impending free agent, about a new contract, according to a source. Wendell, 27, has started all 32 games the last two seasons, and would like to return to the Patriots, but the team cut off communication with him about a contract extension midway through the 2013 season. Wendell played with a $1.015 million cap number in 2013.
The Patriots don’t have an obvious replacement available at center, although Connolly can play the position.