Who will be the next under-30 Patriot to get a new contract?
|06.09.12 at 12:02 am ET|
With the news that the Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski have agreed to a six-year $54 million deal, here’s a look at some of the other players under 30 who might be next up when it comes to a new contract:
Patrick Chung: The 24-year-old safety is entering the final season of a four-year contract he signed as a rookie, and despite running into a pretty bad injury stretch last year, he remains an important part of the New England defense. (It was no coincidence that the Patriots were playing their best defensive football of 2011 when Chung and Brandon Spikes returned to the lineup at the end of the season.) While it’s unlikely that the Patriots would give him a new deal before his current one expires, he’s a safe bet to sign a second contract next offseason.
Sebastian Vollmer: Vollmer’s rookie deal is also set to expire following the 2012 season, and despite the fact that he was dogged by injury in 2011, he remains one of New England’s best options at tackle. (His bargaining power likely increased, albeit ever so slightly, when Matt Light retired this offseason.) The Patriots have traditionally taken very good care of their starting tackles — remember when they gave Nick Kaczur a new four-year extension in 2009? — and while the 27-year-old Vollmer won’t likely get a new deal before he current contract is done, if he shows well in 2012 and returns to a level of consistency he displayed his first two seasons in the league, like Chung, he’s a good bet to get a new deal sometime next offseason.
Aaron Hernandez: The tight end — who has two more years left on the contract he signed as a rookie — now faces an interesting future, as there’s some question as to whether or not the Patriots will be able to gift both of their talented young tight ends with big deals. When Hernandez and his team return to the bargaining table, this might be an excellent opportunity for the team to use the franchise tag. (That would also set up an interesting debate, as Hernandez is one of the more versatile options in the New England offense, and could make an argument that if he does get hit with the franchise tag, he should get paid like a wide receiver instead of a tight end — which would almost certainly cost the Patriots more dough.)
Brandon Spikes: The linebacker, who will turn 25 before the start of the regular season, signed a four-year deal as a rookie, which will be up after the 2013 season. Like Chung, when he’s been healthy, he’s been a key to the success of the defense: problem is, he likely hasn’t been healthy enough over his two seasons in the league to warrant a new deal. The 2012 season will be a key one for Spikes for several reasons, including the fact that the Patriots picked up Dont’a Hightower in the first round of the draft, a linebacker who can do many of the same things that Spikes does. As our pal PatsPropaganda points out, Hightower could serve as insurance for Spikes in case he struggles with injury. The battle for playing time (and how the Patriots deploy both of them) between the two in 2012 will be fascinating to watch.
Devin McCourty: McCourty, who will turn 25 in August, signed a five-year deal as a rookie that will expire after 2014. He had a tremendous rookie season, which was followed up by a rough 2011. Whether he works at corner or safety going forward (he was at corner almost exclusively during the latest round of OTA’s that were open to the media), he’ll have to return to the All-Pro form he flashed as a rookie before there’s any serious talk about a new deal.