New deal for Patriots Pro Bowl tight end Hernandez
The New England Patriots gave Pro Bowl tight end Aaron Hernandez
a new, five-year contract on Monday.
The deal is worth $40 million, according to reports, and comes
just months after the team locked up another All-Pro tight end, Rob
Gronkowski, through 2019.
Hernandez’s deal with the Patriots (No. 2 in the AP Pro32) will
run through 2018, and his base salaries of $545,000 and $570,000
for the next two seasons, respectively, will remain intact.
The 22-year-old former standout at the University of Florida
wasn’t available for comment during the team’s player availability
Monday. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed the
”We wouldn’t have done it if we weren’t happy with it,” he
said. ”I’m glad it worked out.”
Hernandez had 910 yards receiving last season and seven
touchdowns as the Patriots won the AFC before losing to the Giants
in the Super Bowl. In two seasons, he has 124 catches, 1,473 yards
and 13 scores. He’s also carried the ball eight times for 92
Hernandez is expected to sign the contract no later than
Tuesday, and the Patriots will close the preseason at the Giants on
Wednesday. After signing the deal, the tight end will donate
$50,000 to the Myra Kraft Foundation, a charitable organization
honoring the late wife of New England owner Bob Kraft.
At 6-foot-1, and 245 pounds, Hernandez last season experienced a
dramatic boost in production from his rookie campaign, often
proving difficult to cover. He is expected to play an even wider
role in the offense this season. The former fourth-round draft pick
has frequently lined up at tight end, receiver and even running
back during training camp.
In last season’s playoffs, Hernandez ripped off a 43-yard run
during a victory over the Denver Broncos, and finished the game
with five carries for 61 yards as well as four catches for 55
”Aaron’s improved a lot. He’s worked hard, he’s improved a lot
in all phases of the game – the passing game, the running game,
protection and his overall versatility. He’s doing a good job for
us,” Belichick said. ”He’s a hard guy to cover. We’ve had a lot
of trouble covering him defensively.”
Like the 23-year-old Gronkowski, Hernandez’s rookie contract
wasn’t set to expire until after the 2013 season, but the talented
tandem of tight ends will now remain in New England throughout
their prime, forming perhaps the most productive pair in recent
After posting one of the greatest seasons ever for a tight end
last year, when he recorded 90 receptions, 1,327 yards and 17
touchdowns, Gronkowski was rewarded with the richest deal for a
tight end in NFL annals. He agreed in June to a six-year, $53
Hernandez’s contract actually averages more the first four years
than Gronkowski’s deal and offers more in true guaranteed money.
Gronkowski was promised $12 million up front and another $5 million
if he was still on the roster in 2015.
”They’re two different types of tight ends, Rob being the
bigger body type. But they both are very good at what they do,”
New England tight end Daniel Fells said. ”They push you to get
better every single day. When you have two talented guys in your
room, you want to try to raise the bar yourself, and it makes me
And what has he learned from them so far this preseason?
”That I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Fells joked.
Hernandez’s deal casts a larger shadow over the possibility of a
long-term contract for Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker. After a
stellar season in which he led the league with 122 receptions – 22
more than the next highest total – Welker, who finished with 1,569
yards, was unable to come to terms on an extension this offseason.
Instead, he signed a $9.5 million franchise tender in May.
”It’s good for him. Definitely happy for him,” Welker said of
Hernandez. ”He’s a great player and (has) done a lot of great
things for us. (It’s) good to have him here.”
Welker, 31, was asked to compare his situation to that of Boston
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, another productive fan
favorite vying for a long-term extension, but who instead signed a
one-year deal prior to this season.
”I think it’s a little bit different with the sports and
everything and how everything comes together,” Welker said. ”But
at the same time, I’m under contract and I played out my last deal
and I’ll play out this one and we’ll see where we’re at.”
Regardless of his future with the Patriots, Welker should once
again benefit from lining up beside Hernandez and Gronkowski.
”You can do different things,” he said. ”You can line up in
some bigger people-type sets and in some more spread out-type sets.
And with the way they can do different things, I think it really
helps us in running and passing the ball.”
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and