The Patriots have several key young players coming up on expiring contracts, so signing TE Rob Gronkowski to a new deal is smart business. RT Sebastian Vollmer and S Patrick Chung expire this year. Gronkowski, TE Aaron Hernandez and LB Brandon Spikes, not to mention WR Wes Welker is franchised. Doing deals early is a departure for the Patriots, who have long played hardball with everyone by LB Jerod Mayo (two early extensions).