The New England Patriots are a franchise that is known to not hand out a large contract extension very easily. That would make the recent five-year, $40 million deal to tight end Aaron Hernandez a big of a shock. But is it?
Hernandez, along with his partner-in-crime Rob Gronkowski, have developed into the most lethal tight end duo the league has maybe ever seen. The unique styles of each player is revolutionizing the way the tight end position will be played for years to come. The two are also showing how important having a mismatch, or mismatches, can help guide a team to success.
Hernandez came into the league as one of the top tight end prospects. As an All-American at the University of Florida, he helped guide the team to a BCS National Championship.
However, because of reports that stated he had problems with marijuana while at school, his stock dropped. The Patriots took full advantage of this and selected him with the 113th overall pick (fourth round) in the 2010 NFL draft.
Hernandez had a very impressive 2011 season. The Bristol, Conn., native had 910 receiving yards to go along with seven touchdowns. The jack-of-all-trades tight end has also run the ball eight times for 92 yards in his two-year career, highlighting his importance to the Patriots' offense.
While Gronkowski appears on paper as the more dynamic of the two, a case could be made that Hernandez is a better overall player.
At 6'1" and 245 pounds, he does not move like a prototypical tight end. He can certainly line up in a three-point-stance and block, but he wreaks havoc when lined up as a receiver. His quickness is simply amazing to watch sometimes, and his ability to move in sync with quarterback Tom Brady cannot be emphasized enough.
It will be interesting to see how he develops going into his third season with Belichick, Brady and Co. He has already become a Pro Bowler and one of the more reliable tight ends in the league.
Now he's being paid like one.