From Comcast SportsNetFOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots gave Pro Bowl tight end Aaron Hernandez a new, five-year contract on Monday.The deal is worth 40 million, according to reports, and comes just months after the team locked up another All-Pro tight end, Rob Gronkowski, through 2019.Hernandez's deal with the Patriots (No. 2 in the AP Pro32) will run through 2018, and his base salaries of 545,000 and 570,000 for the next two seasons, respectively, will remain intact.The 22-year-old former standout at the University of Florida wasn't available for comment during the team's player availability Monday. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed the situation."We wouldn't have done it if we weren't happy with it," he said. "I'm glad it worked out."Hernandez had 910 yards receiving last season and seven touchdowns as the Patriots won the AFC before losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl. In two seasons, he has 124 catches, 1,473 yards and 13 scores. He's also carried the ball eight times for 92 yards.Hernandez is expected to sign the contract no later than Tuesday, and the Patriots will close the preseason at the Giants on Wednesday. After signing the deal, the tight end will donate 50,000 to the Myra Kraft Foundation, a charitable organization honoring the late wife of New England owner Bob Kraft.At 6-foot-1, and 245 pounds, Hernandez last season experienced a dramatic boost in production from his rookie campaign, often proving difficult to cover. He is expected to play an even wider role in the offense this season. The former fourth-round draft pick has frequently lined up at tight end, receiver and even running back during training camp.In last season's playoffs, Hernandez ripped off a 43-yard run during a victory over the Denver Broncos, and finished the game with five carries for 61 yards as well as four catches for 55 yards."Aaron's improved a lot. He's worked hard, he's improved a lot in all phases of the game -- the passing game, the running game, protection and his overall versatility. He's doing a good job for us," Belichick said. "He's a hard guy to cover. We've had a lot of trouble covering him defensively."Like the 23-year-old Gronkowski, Hernandez's rookie contract wasn't set to expire until after the 2013 season, but the talented tandem of tight ends will now remain in New England throughout their prime, forming perhaps the most productive pair in recent memory.After posting one of the greatest seasons ever for a tight end last year, when he recorded 90 receptions, 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns, Gronkowski was rewarded with the richest deal for a tight end in NFL annals. He agreed in June to a six-year, 53 million extension.Hernandez's contract actually averages more the first four years than Gronkowski's deal and offers more in true guaranteed money. Gronkowski was promised 12 million up front and another 5 million if he was still on the roster in 2015."They're two different types of tight ends, Rob being the bigger body type. But they both are very good at what they do," New England tight end Daniel Fells said. "They push you to get better every single day. When you have two talented guys in your room, you want to try to raise the bar yourself, and it makes me get better."And what has he learned from them so far this preseason?"That I've got a lot of work to do," Fells joked.Hernandez's deal casts a larger shadow over the possibility of a long-term contract for Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker. After a stellar season in which he led the league with 122 receptions -- 22 more than the next highest total -- Welker, who finished with 1,569 yards, was unable to come to terms on an extension this offseason. Instead, he signed a 9.5 million franchise tender in May."It's good for him. Definitely happy for him," Welker said of Hernandez. "He's a great player and (has) done a lot of great things for us. (It's) good to have him here."Welker, 31, was asked to compare his situation to that of Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, another productive fan favorite vying for a long-term extension, but who instead signed a one-year deal prior to this season."I think it's a little bit different with the sports and everything and how everything comes together," Welker said. "But at the same time, I'm under contract and I played out my last deal and I'll play out this one and we'll see where we're at."Regardless of his future with the Patriots, Welker should once again benefit from lining up beside Hernandez and Gronkowski."You can do different things," he said. "You can line up in some bigger people-type sets and in some more spread out-type sets. And with the way they can do different things, I think it really helps us in running and passing the ball."
Jimmy Hayes and David Price both had the opportunity to confront media members recently. The guy with nothing to lose somehow handled it significantly better than the highly paid superstar.
According to Michael Felger, Hayes, fresh off being bought out of his Bruins contract this summer, approached him in Nantucket over the weekend, handed him a beer and then lit into him, as the Dorchester native was what Felger called “really unhappy” with Felger and Mazz for some shots he felt were too personal.
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Now, we shouldn’t need to get into how Hayes should feel about the local media vs. how Price should feel, but here’s a reminder of each’s situation: Hayes is a local kid who was billed as something he wasn’t. No one expected things to go as poorly as they did, but they did and it was ugly.
Price, on the other hand, was a highly touted free agent signing who had a good first year in Boston and, after injury delayed the start of his 2017, has been good on the field and pissy as hell off it. He’s yelled at two media members in the name of being a good teammate, most recently when he went after Dennis Eckersley on the team plane.
Worst-case scenario, Hayes’ days an NHL regular could be over. Price remains in the midst of a prolific career and is making $30 million this season. There’s no question of who’s had it worse.
So when you see how each handled the situation -- and even consider that alcohol was involved in what was the more civil case -- Price’s treatment of Eckersley (according to Dan Shaughnessy’s report) looks even worse.
With the media, Hayes is polite, yet soft-spoken. In the setting in which he found himself with one of his biggest critics, he didn’t need to be. He could have tried to embarrass Felger, as Price did by mocking Eckerlsey in front of an airplane full of people.
Instead, Hayes gave Felger a piece of his mind and the two moved on. Hayes doesn’t need to worry about Felger given that he’s not playing here anymore, but he got to make Felger answer for any perceived low blows.
Felger was more critical of Hayes than Eckersley is of the Red Sox. In fact, Paula Abdul was often more critical of Idol contestants than Eckersley is of the Red Sox. That the players apparently hate him is perplexing, as they’re the only ones who think he comes off as malicious.
Confrontations between players and media members certainly happen throughout the course of a season, though they typically follow a more standard format: Player says something to reporter because he doesn’t like their story or question, uncomfortable exchange takes place and, often times, apologies are given when cooler heads have prevailed.
Yet there’s been no apology to Eckersley from Price, and there’s little reason to believe cooler heads will prevail as it relates to Price’s attitude toward the media. Hayes’ handling of his confrontation said something about his character; Price’s confrontations are only serving to build a unnecessarily negative reputation.
Michael Holley and Tom Giles give their picks on who they think applauded David Price for confronting Dennis Eckersley.