The New England Patriots have locked up yet another cornerstone offensive weapon, as they have agreed to sign tight end Aaron Hernandez to a five-year contract extension. ESPN's Adam Schefter was the first to report the deal, which is worth roughly $40 million. $16.4 of the $40 million is reportedly guaranteed.
Hernandez was also given a $12.5 million signing bonus, the largest signing bonus given to a tight end in the history of the NFL.
Since fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski was given a hefty six-year extension earlier this offseason, it had long been speculated that Hernandez would soon get his payday. His rookie deal he signed back in 2010 had him making just under $2 million annually. His new deal will have him earning around $8 million annually, once the extension takes effect.
Hernandez, 22, has been a force to be reckoned with among opposing defenses. In his two years in the NFL, he has caught 124 passes for 1,473 yards and 13 touchdowns. Combined with Gronkowski's power and strength, Hernandez's quickness and finesse makes the 'Boston TE Party' arguably the most unstoppable tight end tandem the NFL has ever seen.
The Patriots have done tremendous work to get not only Hernandez, but Gronkowski extended for years to come. Both have established themselves as legitimate top-five tight ends and are both in their early twenties. With these two guys locked in, you can count on the Patriots being a Top-Five offense at the very least for many years to come. This also has to make Tom Brady an even happier man than he already is.
The Hernandez extension does put wide receiver Wes Welker's status with the team beyond 2012 in further jeopardy. He is currently playing with the $9.5 million franchise tag and was unable to work out an extension with the team before the July 16 franchise player extension deadline. With Hernandez showing the capability of a slot wide receiver, this could put the nail in the coffin for Welker to return to the Patriots in 2013.