Former Patriots offensive guard Logan Mankins talks with reporters after practice in Foxboro on May 29, 2013. Mankins is known for being tough  and for
Former Patriots offensive guard Logan Mankins talks with reporters after practice in Foxboro on May 29, 2013. Mankins is known for being tough and for sporting some interesting facial hair through the years. AP PHOTOS

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As a New England Patriot, Logan Mankins always played nasty, often played hurt and made six Pro Bowls.

His level of play slipped last season; a physical inevitability when you always play nasty, often play hurt and do so over nine NFL seasons.

Mankins' reduced mastery, it seems, intersected on the Patriots' books with the $6.25 million the 32-year-old guard was scheduled to make this season.

Mankins' punishment?

He is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick again separated the sentimental ("one of the all-time great Patriots and the best guard I ever coached") from cold hard business. Belichick merely did (all together now) "what is in the best interests of the team" by trading Mankins to the Buccaneers on Tuesday for second-year tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 fourth-round draft pick.

It was a blockbuster parting reminiscent of Belichick releasing Lawyer Milloy just before the 2003 season and trading Richard Seymour to the Raiders just before the 2009 season.

The Patriots traded one of the best offensive linemen in their history for a tight end signed 14 months ago by the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent.

Initial reaction?

Wow, Rob Gronkowski's surgically repaired right knee must really be a tangled mess.

But alarming worries about Gronk subsided when one noticed Wright played his college ball at Rutgers. Belichick has done more to promote Rutgers' football prowess than Rutgers has actually done playing football.


The Patriots' current roster has one player each from Florida State (rookie center Bryan Stork) and Alabama (linebacker Dont'a Hightower), the last two national-championship schools. But Wright becomes the fifth Rutgers player on the Patriots' current roster, joining defensive backs Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon, and linebacker Steve Beauharnais.

And only Belichick's admiration of former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano keeps Schiano on anyone's radar after he went 11-21 over two seasons coaching the Buccaneers and was fired.

Wright is a 6-foot-4, 230-pound former Rutgers wide receiver. As a rookie tight end last season he had 54 receptions for 571 yards, and five touchdowns in the NFL's worst offense.

Given Gronkowski's durability issues, Wright is an appealing addition to New England's offense. He will now have Tom Brady throwing to him, not Josh Freeman and Mike Glennon, his quarterbacks last season in 4-12 Tampa Bay.

Brady's protection softened last season (sacked 40 times, most since his first season as a starter), and then longtime offensive-line guru Dante Scarnecchia retired. So the O-line needs to pick up its game. Mankins, an 18-wheeler of a run-blocker, apparently was seen as part of last season's problem, not this season's solution. At least not at $6.25 million. A tight end making $495,000 makes more sense.

So says Belichick.

Follow David Pevear on Twitter and Tout @merganser10