New England Patriots extend TE Aaron Hernandez

I liked the Patriots’ extension of Rob Gronkowski because I feel the value of the tight end position is going to go up in the next 2 years, between now and when Gronkowski would have been a free agent in 2014. I’m not so sure about this deal. Gronkowski’s was 6 years, 54 million. Hernandez’s is 5 years, 40 million. The Patriots are taking an awfully big risk that the tight end position with continue to be a part big of a league and not just a fad because these two deals were the highest per year extensions given to a tight end ever.

If the tight end revolution doesn’t continue, they’ll be stuck paying guys big money at a position that just doesn’t command it. It was fine to take that risk with Gronkowski, because that’s one player and because he’s so good at everything. Including playoffs, the Patriots ran 1362 offensive plays last year. Gronkowski was on the field for 1290 of them. No other tight end does that. Very few players at any position do that. That’s more than any wide receiver on the Patriots, including Wes Welker.

Aaron Hernandez was on the field for 1051 of them. If we look at the regular season, just so we have something to compare him with accurately, Hernandez played 864 offensive snaps, 16th in the league at his position, a number slightly skewed because the Patriots run more plays in general than most teams. Either way, we’re looking at a guy with a usage rate in the high 70% range, which, at his position, is pretty average.

I think they’re taking a big risk committing this kind of money to him, especially with 2 years left on his rookie deal. And the reward I don’t think is as great as with Gronkowski if the tight end revolution continues because Hernandez is not nearly worth what Gronkowski’s worth. He’s essentially just a big wide receiver. Gronkowski is also a big receiver, but he’s also an incredible blocker and as a receiver. He was better than even Hernandez last year as a receiver, in terms of total yards and yards per route run.

Grade: C

If you’re interested in doing a fantasy football league with me, here’s the link (no draft date set yet, currently standard, with the option to become PPR with group vote). http://msn.foxsports.com/fantasy/football/commissioner/Registration/Private.aspx?league=55086&password=FanSpot2

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