One of the more underrated elements of team building and planning is deciding which young players are worthy of receiving contract extensions before their rookie deals have expired. Recently the Patriots identified Rob Gronkowski as one such player, inking him to a six-year extension that could keep him in New England through 2019. Last season, New England locked up Jerod Mayo in similar fashion.
But not every player can attain the type of long-term security those two did, and determining which ones to prioritize can be tricky business. The Patriots have several young players who would be under consideration of receiving extensions including Aaron Hernandez, Patrick Chung, Brandon Spikes and Sebastian Vollmer. Chung and Vollmer are set to become free agents after the 2012 season while Hernandez and Spikes could hit the market after the 2013 season.
Arguments could be made on behalf of any of them, but this week's Samsonite Make Your Case tries to narrow it down by asking which young player should be the next to receive a contract extension.
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
The Patriots have few impact players on defense, so keeping as many of them around as possible is important. We all saw late last season the difference that Chung can make when added to the defense. He brings a certain energy and contagious style that can't be replicated.
The safety position is a complete unknown without Chung. He is a heady leader on the field and consistent worker off it. He acts, speaks and works in a very Patriot way. The lone argument against Chung is his injury history, but the same is true of all the other guys (Spikes, Vollmer, Hernandez) in line for an extension.
The Patriots need to retain a leader and playmaker in the back end of the secondary.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Most of the young players who are line for a raise have injury histories that make extending them risky. Hernandez has battled knee problems that have caused him to miss a few games in his two seasons, but I think his impact on the team has been greater than the others.
The Patriots offense has been quite productive and likely would continue to be without him. However, the team hasn't developed a young receiver in quite some time and having the dynamic duo of Gronkowski and Hernandez may be key to the unit's future.
Hernandez is a unique player who creates matchup problems for virtually any defense. With Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney all north of 40, there importance of locking up Hernandez is evident. The Patriots need to keep both tight ends over the long term if they intend to continue riddling opposing defenses in the passing game.
All of these young players are valuable, but Hernandez to me is the most important of the bunch and most deserving of an extension.
Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll.