Will The New England Patriots Franchise Tag Aaron Hernandez?

Hernandez will be looking to cash in when eligible following the 2013 season.

Rob Gronkowski has been rewarded handsomely for his efforts and projected growth after two years in the NFL. The New England Patriots handed Gronk an eight-year, $55.23 million pact earlier this off-season. What about the other Patriots tight end?

Aaron Hernandez goes with Gronk like peanut butter goes with jelly. They are each great, but together they are unstoppable! So what will be of the other Pats tight end whose contract is set to expire following the 2013 season?

Many have assumed that the Franchise Tag may be a viable option to keep A-Hern in the fold. The tag, as many know, guarantees the tagee the average of the top five players at his position. Patriots fans have become quite familiar with this over the summer with what has been unfolding with Wes Welker.

However, as Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe astutely pointed out in yesterday’s Boston Globe, Hernandez could argue (if franchised) that he is a wide receiver and not a tight end.

According to Pro Football Focus, Hernandez only had his hand down in the dirt 29% of his snaps last season. He was second in the league among tight ends with 123 snaps at receiver. Second to Jermichael Finley that is, who made a similar argument when the Packers franchised him last year (before agreeing to a multi-year deal).

Why is this a big deal though?

As Bedard notes, the “receiver tag ($9.515 million) is almost double that of tight end ($5.446 million) this year.” This number will only rise the next two seasons.

Perhaps this will be a moot point though. Maybe the Patriots and A-Hern will find common ground before then. But the 79 catch tight end/receiver will be looking to cash in, and so will his agent David Dunn who also represent Wes Welker. Maybe something far worse could happen, like a dramatic drop off in production or even an injury.

Nevertheless, in the dog days of summer, with training camp just two and a half weeks out, it’s something to chew on.

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