The New England Patriots have locked up tight end Aaron Hernandez through 2018. The team and player agreed to a five-year, $40 million contract extension Monday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter via league sources. The deal carries $16.4 million guaranteed and a $12.5 million signing bonus. Hernandez caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
Over the weekend, the Boston Globe stated that Hernandez has "ascended" the pecking order and is now Tom Brady's No. 1 option. I'm not willing to go that far since I'd still rather have Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski , but it's nice to hear. The Patriots move Hernandez all over the field -- even into the backfield -- to exploit the many mismatches he presents. He's the fourth TE off the board right now, but it wouldn't be totally shocking to me if he were to finish this season inside the top two. Gronk's numbers are due for a regression.