Hernandez is here to stay


Hernandez is here to stay

Over the summer, I wondered if Rob Gronkowski's extension might equal good news for Wes Welker. The argument being that with the highly-prioritized Gronk signed to a long term deal, the Pats would now have greater clarity to deal with the short term.

This afternoon, I'll wonder the same thing, only this time with Aaron Hernandez as the source of long term clarity.

First of all, I love the extension for Hernandez. With he and Gronk wrapped up for seven and eight years, respectively, the foundation is in place and the path is cleared for Tom Brady to play well into 40s. Is it weird that that's the first thing that comes to my mind? Either way, there's no doubt that securing the GronkHernandez combo is good news for the Pats. But what about for Welker?

I guess if my Gronk post taught me anything, it's that before asking that question, we should address this one: Are there any other young guys who the Pats are in a rush to lock up long term?

On that note, here's a list of notable players who will become free agents after this season: Kyle Arrington. Patrick Chung. Sebastian Vollmer. Julian Edelman. Dane Fletcher. Danny Woodhead.

And after next season: Kyle Love and Brandon Spikes.

So what do you think?

Personally, I don't think Arrington, Edelman, Fletcher or Woodhead are quite there. I think Chung, Vollmer and Spikes might deserve consideration but neither of the three has proven himself worthy of a long-term commitment. I think Love just signed a new deal last week. And with all that being said, I think that (short of a major injury) signing Welker to an extension should be the Pats No. 1 priority next off-season.

Of course, it won't be easy. Assuming they don't slap the tag on Welker for a second season, No. 83 will be an unrestricted free agent. And with that's happened you wouldn't think that he'll be in the mood to take a hometown discount. Or maybe he would? After all, from the start he's made it clear that he's more interested in being a part of this team than playing hardball. So maybe he'd taken a little less to play a few more years with Brady?

Especially since, after today's events, Brady guaranteed to play for at least seven more years. (I know. I know. Just let me go with it.)

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine