Deal protects Patriots

Hernandez must stay out of trouble

By Albert R. Breer
Globe Staff / June 10, 2010

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The Patriots seem satisfied with the progress fourth-round pick Aaron Hernandez has made, getting him work with the first-team offense during organized team activities, but they still aren’t taking any chances.

The four-year contract Hernandez signed Tuesday is a complicated one that protects the team in case the off-field issues that have plagued the tight end crop up in his professional career.

Sources with five NFL teams told the Globe after the draft that Hernandez failed multiple drug tests as a collegian, while Hernandez (through a team-issued statement) and a source close to the player contended it was just one test. What no one argued was that off-field concerns caused Hernandez to plummet down draft boards. Seen by most to be a low-first-round or second-round talent, the reigning Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end fell to the Patriots in the fourth round.

Hernandez’s deal calls for a $200,000 signing bonus, and bonuses of $76,000 (2010), $90,000 (2011), $104,000 (2012), $118,000 (2013) based on making the 53-man roster. He also has a one-time $24,000 play-time bonus that can be paid after Year 1, and triggers workout bonuses of $110,000, $96,000, and $82,000 that can be earned during the 2011, ’12, and ’13 offseasons, respectively.

Hernandez’s base salaries are slated to be $320,000, $405,000, $490,000, and $575,000, and there’s an escalator, based on playing time, worth $1.308 million included for 2013.

By comparison, Patriots third-round pick Taylor Price’s deal is simple. His base salaries are the same as Hernandez’s, but there’s just one bonus — the $704,000 signing bonus Price already collected.

Bears defensive end Corey Wootton went 109th overall, four picks ahead of Hernandez, and was awarded a $508,000 signing bonus.

Hernandez’s deal includes $700,000 in bonus money, but it’ll take him four years to earn it, and the structure of the deal forces the University of Florida product to remain in good standing with the league, and avoid suspensions, to collect the money.

The workout bonuses could be construed as motivators to keep Hernandez around the club in the offseason, and the roster bonuses, or the timing of them, allow for the team to wait until just before the start of the season to financially commit to the player.

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