Wes Welker picked the wrong time to need a long-term contract extension. The slot receiver has learned the hard way this offseason that the New England Patriots value his services, but not like the young tight end duo that has transformed their offense.
NFL.com and NFL Network reporter Albert Breer confirmed Monday that Aaron Hernandez agreed to terms Monday on a contract extension. That follows Rob Gronkowski's expensive long-term deal from earlier this year. Signing players to long-term deals at this young an age is a win-win. The Patriots save money and keep both players long term, while Hernandez and Gronkowski get security before almost anyone in their draft class.
Gronk and Hernandez have only played two seasons together, but they immediately transformed the Patriots' offense into something new, explosive and almost impossible to defend. The Boston Globe says Hernandez has stood out this offseason as Tom Brady's favorite target. He runs routes and makes defenders miss like a wide receiver.
When paired with Gronkowski's devastating blocking, the Patriots have two queens on the chessboard they can use in a variety of ways. Welker is also a valuable piece, but New England clearly thinks he would be easier to replace.
This doesn't rule out a long-term deal for Welker next offseason. But just like Richard Seymour and Asante Samuel before him, Welker may have to leave Foxborough to maximize his money.
"I'm under contract. I played out my last deal and I'll play out this one," Welker said Monday, according to Hart.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.