|Hernandez will be a Patriot through 2018.|
Less than three months after the Patriots gave tight end Rob Gronkowski a six-year, $54 million contract extension, the team proved again the importance of tight ends in their system by granting the “other” tight end Aaron Hernandez an extension as well, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
ESPN's Mike Reiss writes that it's a five-year extension on his current contract, meaning the Patriots have locked him up through 2018. Gronkowski is signed through 2019. Hernandez had two years left on his rookie deal for $1.115 million.
CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reports that Hernandez's existing rookie contract will remain intact, but in the additional two seasons, he'll average $7.5 million per year. The Boston Globe reports Hernandez will get a $12.5 million signing bonus and that $16.4 million is guaranteed.
While Gronkowski has taken most of the headlines -- and, well, most of the touchdown catches -- Hernandez has made his mark on the team as well. While Gronkowski was wowing the NFL world by catching 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns last season -- other-worldly numbers for a tight end -- Hernandez was recording 79 catches for 910 yards and seven touchdowns.
Perhaps he's not quite as dangerous of a pass-catcher as Gronkowski, but he's also a little more versatile. As he proved when he would line up in the backfield and take the ball like a running back. Most of all, he was generally making himself a pest for the opposing defense.
Now, he, like Gronkowski, will be doing so for many years to come in a Patriots uniform.
More from La Canfora: "With Gronkowski and Hernandez locked up longterm, and Antonio Gates being several years into his extension, the market is essentially set for New Orleans and its emerging tight end sensation Jimmy Graham. However, there has been little progress toward a deal there, and the Saints have already done some massive spending this offseason, including deals for Drew Brees, Ben Grubbs and Curtis Lofton."
Sounds like Graham might have to wait a while longer.