The Patriots acted swiftly to extend the contract of Rob Gronkwoski, making him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, and also the first player from the 2010 draft class to receive an extension.
In doing so, the Patriots have locked up a key contributor from their 2011 campaign, and one who many believe to be the best at his position in all of football.
In light of his extension, the question some have been quick to ask is which players the Patriots will next look to extend.
Here’s an overview of three players working under their rookie contracts who the team may address as potential extension candidates in the near future, including their current age in parentheses:
AARON HERNANDEZ (22)
The other half to the Patriots lethal tight end duo is similar to Gronkowski in that his rookie deal is set to expire after the 2014 season, and certainly his accomplishments over the first two years of his career have been noteworthy. The question some have already begun to ask is if a team can afford to invest that much money into one position, having already allotted a sizable chunk to Gronkowski and offseason addition Daniel Fells. That’s difficult to gauge, not only because Hernandez is such a special talent, but also because he isn’t used strictly as a tight end. We saw him align all over the line of scrimmage in 2011, including as running back. In some ways, he’s just as accurately described as an offensive weapon as a tight end.
PATRICK CHUNG (24)
The timeframe for an extension for Chung is clear, as he’s due to become a free agent after this season. He’s totaled 195 tackles in his three seasons in Foxboro, but has missed 10 games over the past two seasons. Nonetheless, he’s a steady secondary contributor when healthy. The Patriots invested in Steve Gregory this offseason (three years), and also drafted Tavon Wilson in the second round, which gives the team a couple of options to work at safety besides Chung. Ultimately, however, the team may decide that the 24-year old, who has done a little bit of everything during his career, is worth keeping around for a number of years, and aim for an extension.
SEBASTIAN VOLLMER (27)
When drafted, many draft expert considered Vollmer a huge reach. Now, he’s an integral part to the Patriots offensive line plans, and is a projected starter at right tackle for 2012. He’s already been named a second-team All-Pro in his career, and forms a promising tackle pairing with Nate Solder. Protecting Tom Brady is paramount to the Patriots offense, and Vollmer has shown he’s capable. He too is entering the final year of his rookie deal, but it’s notable that Vollmer will be 28 by the time the season starts. That’s not ancient by NFL standards, but age is always a factor when considering new contracts.