ESPN’s Adam Schefter was first to report this morning that the Patriots had extended the contract of their other star tight end,
The Hernandez extension appears to be for five years, with a total potential value of $40 million, a $12.5 million signing bonus, and $16.4 million in guaranteed money. His original rookie contract was set to expire after 2013, meaning the extension starts with the 2014 season. Hernandez is now signed through the 2018 season, while Gronkowski is potentially here through 2019 (the team is said to have an out in Gronk’s deal after 2015).
Hernandez’ signing bonus is the largest ever awarded to a tight end.
The big pay day for Hernandez also comes after the team was unable to reach a long-term agreement with franchise-tagged wide receiver
"It's good for him. I'm definitely happy for him," Welker told a massive swarm of reporters, cameras, and microphones. "He's a great player and done a lot of great things for us. Good to have him here."
“Any contract that we agree to is one that we’re in support of. If we agree to a contract on a player,” explained head coach Bill Belichick, “then we’re in support of that player, the length of the contract, the amount that we’re paying him, all the other things that go with the contract. We wouldn’t do it if we weren’t in support of it, as an organization, me personally, all of the above.
“Aaron has improved a lot. He’s worked hard, he’s improved a lot in all phases of the game: passing game, running game, protection and his overall versatility. He’s done a good job for us. He’s a hard guy to cover. We’ve had a lot of trouble covering him defensively… he’s versatile. He can do a lot of different things.”
Veteran tight end and locker room neighbor
“They push you to get better every single day. When you have two talented guys in your [meeting] room, you want to try to raise the bar yourself. It makes me get better.
“They’re two very talented guys. They’re going to go out there and do their jobs every single day. Whatever the coaches ask them to do, they’re going to execute it. They complement each other very nicely. They’re two different types of tight ends – Rob being the bigger body-type – but they’re both very good at what they do.”
More from Welker
"I'm just going out here and doing my job to the best of my ability, and let everything else take care of itself.”
Could he see himself on another team after this year?
"I'm not worried about that. I'm just focused on this year, and what I have to do and not worried about that at all."
Welker, who missed last week’s Tampa game and the second of two joint practices with the Buccaneers, was back on the practice field today, in full uniform. He wouldn’t say, however, exactly what caused him to be a spectator last week, only that “personal reasons” were to blame.
He did say, though, that he fully intended to be ready for the regular season opener in Tennessee on Sept. 9.
“Yeah, absolutely... I look forward to being out there with the team, and looking forward to 2012.”
Today is the first round of player cuts, when teams around the league must trim their rosters to at most 75 players. New England has yet to make any transactions official, but numerous media reports, starting yesterday, had the following players getting pink slips: safety
In addition, tight end
If all those reports prove accurate, at least three more players must either be released or assigned to an injury-related list by the end of the day today. The second and final round of cuts must be made by this Friday.
For details about today’s Patriots practice, please visit the PFW blog.