- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here is the great news: The reigning AFC champion New England Patriots reached a contract extension with tight end Aaron Hernandez through 2018. This will keep the dynamic tight end duo of Hernandez and Pro Bowler Rob Gronkowski together for a majority of their careers.
However, the bad news is Patriots fans can probably say bye bye to Wes Welker in 2013. The Patriots' Pro Bowl receiver is playing on a one-year franchise tag, and with recent contract extensions handed out to Gronkowski, Brandon Lloyd and Hernandez, New England most likely spent all it could on that side of the football. Gronkowski and Hernandez alone signed contracts reportedly worth a combined $93 million.
A majority of New England's cap is tied into its offensive weapons, including quarterback Tom Brady, and there is no more room left to pay Welker market value to match his immense production. The Patriots essentially made their choice on Monday to go with Hernandez. I think it’s the right decision, mostly due to age. Hernandez has Pro Bowl potential for many years. Welker is 31 and doesn’t have many good seasons left.
Welker is a fan favorite who did everything right in New England. He’s an undersized receiver who worked extremely hard to develop into a Pro Bowler. In many ways, he embodies what the Patriots believe in.
Patriots fans will miss Welker if he parts ways with the team after this season. But after seeing "Gronk" and Hernandez carve up the competition together for years to come, Patriots fans will get over it.