It was a busy morning, as I spent most of it flying to Chicago and chillin’ in Soldier Field. The plan was to rehearse for one of our new shows on NFL Network from there, so that’s exactly what we did.
Now, I’m at Halas Hall waiting for interviews with a few dudes… but before that, I wanted to take the chance to weigh in on some issues from yesterday. Why? Because yesterday is almost two days ago and then it’ll be too late.
So, want an opinion on the new, 5-year, $37.5 million contract extension for TE Aaron Hernandez and the trade of Jets T Wayne Hunter for Rams T Jason Smith? Cool…
— The Patriots and Hernandez’s reps at Athletes First get big praise for this deal. When the Pats selected Hernandez in the fourth-round, they assumed all sorts of risk. He had some questions, mostly about off-the-field behavior, and they paid his signing bonus in installments to make sure he walked a straight arrow. Of course, it was a fourth-rounder for a second-round talent, so they got great value. Hernandez made it really great. This contract extension means he’s done what they’ve asked. And that’s something that should be noted. During a time when we dissect the Cowboys struggles to keep Dez Bryant in line, the Patriots seem to no longer have any worries about Hernandez. They put such a focus on player development, and this is an instance where it seems it worked.
The Patriots will often give up guaranteed money to limit their outlay in the future. That is the case here. They did Hernandez’s deal two years early, which benefits them in two ways. One, the market is still what it is now, not what it will be two years from now. Two, they avoid having to wonder whether Hernandez’s agent David Dunn would try to get him franchised as a receiver (not a tight end) if it came down to that. I kinda want someone to try it, since I’m curious about the outcome, but it won’t be Hernandez. So, they save a potential headache down the road. Plus, to anyone watching, it’s obvious Hernandez and Gronk earned their deals, having outplayed their previous contracts. Other players can’t help but note both have been taken care of.
One more thing the Patriots were and are cognizant of: The locker room dynamic. As soon as Gronk got his deal, Hernandez was itching for one of his own. He didn’t throw a fit or speak out about it, but he wanted one. Had the Patriots not given Hernandez a contract after Gronk got paid, it would have been awkward. Maybe, it would’ve been like 2010, when Tom Brady got a new contract, Randy Moss didn’t, and it got weird. No such worries. You know Bill Belichick was aware that if one got a contract, the other needed one, too.
And about Hernandez, let’s gloss over the fact that he’s earned it. An obvious fact. What’s great is he also appreciates that, when so many teams passed on him, the Pats didn’t. Stuff like that is meaningful. And I know he didn’t come from the easiest of upbringings, so this money is much-appreciated. The fact that he donated some back to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund was heartfelt, and the kind of grand gesture that really resonates with owner Robert Kraft. Just a nice thing all around.
— Ah, Wayne Hunter. Poor guy. Of course, he doesn’t get a ton of sympathy because he’s been so bad and has been humiliated for it, but he does get some. The Jets traded him to the Rams for Jason Smith, a swap of unwanted, underachieving, high-priced tackles who aren’t good enough to start. Props to both teams for shedding a guy who couldn’t help them, even if they acquired a guy who helps them nearly as little. This is a case where new scenery is the desired outcome. In Hunter, the Jets have a swing tackle who makes $2 million less than Smith, and a fairly good guy. He escapes the NY spotlight and can resume his career in anonymity. What I can’t understand, though, is how the Jets could have come out any worse in the public eye.
They pleaded with the public to accept that Hunter won’t be traded. They supported him. They praised him. They made him sound like the second coming of Orlando Pace. Then they traded him. How can we believe anything they say? Ever? The Jets have good access, and people in their organization talk. But if they are saying untruths, what’s the point? Just an incredibly poorly handled mess. Now, the fact that they ended up with a serviceable player is a positive that, in the end, probably out-weighs any PR stupidity. But it’s just ridiculous. Hyperbole isn’t always the answer.
As for Smith, I saw him twice in person and he was bad. Really bad. Just not a good player as a left tackle, a bust as a No. 2 pick. And an expensive one. Maybe the Jets can unlock some hidden potential, but figure they got a swing tackle, too. Both teams lose a player they needed to lose and gain the same guy with a fresh start. That’s called an even trade.
Actually, nicely done by both teams. But one can’t escape the fact that both have problems at tackle that run deeper than Hunter or Smith. The reality is, this trade doesn’t solve that.