It took only a few hours for the Patriots to answer the biggest question facing them heading into the 2011 season. Starting OLG Logan Mankins agreed to sign his franchise tender.
The signing itself does not come as a huge surprise, but the swiftness of the decision was, considering that Mankins held out last season, missing seven games, and his representatives reportedly wanted compensation from the players' antitrust lawsuit with the league.
Robert Kraft's goal should be to sign Mankins to a long-term deal, but knowing that the Pro Bowler will be in camp from Day One takes a huge load off the team's shoulders.
Mankins was far and away the most important free agent the Patriots had to re-sign. The three-time Pro Bowl guard drastically improved the Patriots' rushing attack last season when he rejoined the team. The Patriots had nearly a 19-yard improvement in the run game with Mankins in the trenches.
It's not just an on-field improvement, but Mankins is a leader in the locker room. It also shows there is little to no animosity between Mankins and team management, and might be a sign of a long-term deal in the near future.
The Pats still have some things to do in free agency. They need to decide what to do with OLT Matt Light and FS Jarrad Page and they might go out and add a wide receiver and/or an outside linebacker. Compared to the rest of the league, that's nothing.
There might not have been a whole lot of doubt that Mankins would be back in New England, but since it was clearly the most important piece of business, four months of uncertainty allowed for rumors to begin. However, Mankins put Patriots fans at ease by not waiting long to make his decision.
Mankins will be a Patriot in 2011, and the fact that it took just a few hours for that to be decided is a testament to how important he is to the Patriots, and maybe more importantly, it might show Mankins' dedication to staying in New England.