One year ago, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were unquestionably viewed as the most dangerous tight-end duo in the NFL. As cornerstones of the New England Patriots' 2010 draft class, they were expected to dominate the league for the foreseeable future and potentially win multiple Super Bowls together.
With that in mind, New England signed both tight ends to long-term contracts worth a combined $93 million, including $32.5 million guaranteed. But just a year later, both decisions are in question.
Gronkowski has become a human pin-cushion since signing his six-year, $53 million extension last summer. He's had five surgeries since last November. Gronkowski had four surgeries alone to fix his broken forearm and recently had back surgery that puts his status in question for Week 1 of the regular season. Many are wondering if we will see the same dynamic, physical Gronkowski this season. He's missed months of offseason work and conditioning.
Hernandez has offered a mix of on- and off-the-field concerns since signing a five-year, $40 million contract last year. Hernandez suffered a severe ankle sprain last season that caused him to miss six games. In addition, he had offseason shoulder surgery and missed organized team activities and was limited in minicamp. But an incident off the field this week is the most pressing concern for New England. Hernandez was interviewed by Massachusetts police and had his home searched in a homicide investigation. According to a report by Sports Illustrated, Hernandez is not a suspect. But a SUV in his name is being looked into by police.
These are two very important and expensive players the Patriots have their money tied into for the next several years. New England made the investment a year earlier than it had to in an effort to keep both players long-term and fit them under the cap.
But considering recent events, you wonder if the Patriots are starting to have some buyer’s remorse on their $93 million investment.