While the New England Patriots avoided a future contract issue last month when they signed All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski to a six-year, $54 million extension, they are not yet out of the woods when it comes to contracts for Tom Brady's other receiving targets. Though he has two years remaining on his rookie contract, a potential standoff with tight end Aaron Hernandez could take place during the 2014 offseason.
Because the Patriots line-up Hernandez all over the field -- the 2010 fourth-round pick was second among NFL tight ends when it came to lining up at wide receiver, according to Football Outsiders -- Greg Bedard of The Boston Globe writes Sunday that Hernandez's agent, David Dunn, could make the case for the wide receiver franchise tag in 2014.
The formula for determining the amounts of the franchise tender changed in the new collective bargaining agreement, which allows us to do some long-term projections.
Instead of simply taking the top five salaries at each position, the tender amounts are now based on a five-year cap percentage average. With the salary cap expected to remain flat for the next few seasons, the 2014 franchise tag for the tight end position is expected to be worth $5.763 million, while the wide receiver tag has a projected value of $10.062 million.
If you can demonstrate that your client played more receiver than tight end, which Bedard notes agent Blake Baratz was prepared to do with Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley this offseason, the $4.299 million difference between the tight end and receiver tag is certainly worth a fight.
Now, a lot can happen between the Patriots and Hernandez before 2014. It's also worth noting that off-field issues in college prompted the Patriots to take a cautious approach with Hernandez's rookie contract. But as long as Hernandez remains productive, in good standing with the Patriots, and continues to be used all over the field, his camp could have a strong argument for the higher tag if no long-term deal is reached.