What Does Rob Gronkowski's Contract Mean for Wes Welker, New England Patriots?

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IJune 8, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 26:   Wes Welker #83 and Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots celebrate Gronkowski's touchdown in the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Procrastination. We were all guilty of it in school, staying up until 2:00am to finish an assignment due six hours later.

And recently, the New England Patriots have been guilty of it as well, waiting until the last minute on deals with Asante Samuel, Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork. It's created about as many headaches as trying to write a 10-page paper on the Battle of Gettysburg in one night.

But with the news (via ESPN) that the Patriots have handed Rob Gronkowski a new six-year, $54 million extension—locking up Gronkowski through the 2019 season—it appears they may have finally learned their lesson.

That lesson-learning experience started during the 2011 season, when the team re-signed linebacker Jerod Mayo to a five-year extension. Mayo's deal was set to expire after the 2012 season, and now, the Patriots have locked up one of the key pieces to their defense through 2017.

They proved they've truly learned their lesson by getting the deal done on the NFL record-holder for receiving touchdowns in a single season by a tight end. He is vitally important to the offense, and is one of Tom Brady's favorite weapons in the red zone. This deal guarantees that Gronkowski will be an important part of the offense even after Brady's gone (unless he discovers some magical fountain of youth).

Of course, the Patriots have yet to hand in the paperwork on the most recent victim of their procrastination: wide receiver Wes Welker. The sense of urgency is reduced by the fact that Welker will play for the Patriots in 2012 under the franchise tag, but could the deal with Gronkowski have an impact on negotiations with Welker?

The NFL is a deadline business—look no further than the way-past-deadline resolution to the NFL lockout—but the July 15 deadline to get Welker signed long-term is coming quick. That's when the Patriots and Welker have to work out a long-term deal by. If they haven't, Welker plays 2012 under the tag, and will have to wait until after the season to get the long-term deal he wants.

That is, if he is to get it at all.

After handing Gronkowski what is now the largest contract for a tight end in NFL history, handing over big bucks to Welker may seem like a less attractive option than it did before Gronkowski's deal, which I have given a new nickname.

Apt new title for Gronkowski's mega-deal: The Gronktract.

— Erik Frenz (@ErikFrenz) June 8, 2012

Don't forget, either, that the Patriots still have tight end Aaron Hernandez to consider in a couple of years. Perhaps the Patriots are less eager to re-sign the 31-year-old receiver because they are looking to keep their two young tight ends, and there's only so much long-term money to go around.

So the Patriots avoided a future headache by getting their homework handed in early with Gronkowski, but that doesn't help them get that term paper on Welker's importance to the team handed in anytime sooner. 

While it looks like the Patriots are done waiting until the last minute, that last minute may tick off the clock when it's already too late for Welker.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates.