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Welker 'happy' for Hernandez; Mon. notes

Posted Aug 27, 2012

The Patriots release several players and reward another. Plus, other news and notes from Monday at Gillette Stadium.

The Boston TE Party will rage on for several more years.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter was first to report this morning that the Patriots had extended the contract of their other star tight end, Aaron Hernandez, just months after doing something similar with Rob Gronkowski. The Boston Globe’s Greg Bedard later uncovered financial details.

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 Wes Welker. Coincidentally, Welker’s locker is right next to Hernandez’, and while the tight end did not emerge for comment, his neighbor did.

"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 Daniel Fells raved about the tandem of third-year players with whom he shares a position and locker room territory. The sixth-year player joked that he’s learned, by watching his junior teammates, that he’s “got a lot of work to do.”

“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

Reporters pressed Welker for his feelings about Hernandez’ new deal – specifically if it’s affecting Welker’s emotions about his own contract status. He’s currently playing under the one-year franchise tender ($9.5 million dollars guaranteed this season), and that, he maintains, suits him just fine.

"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.”

Cuts a-comin’

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 Josh Barrett, defensive back Ross Ventrone, defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Tim Bulman, wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth, and fullback Spencer Larsen.

In addition, tight end Jake Ballard (knee) is said to be headed for the reserve/PUP list, meaning he doesn’t count against the roster and won’t be available to practice until after Week 6, at the earliest.

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.