Sure, they didn’t get market value. But they were each at least two years away from making it to the market. The more likely reality is that one guy would have signed a long-term deal on the brink of free agency and the other would have been slapped with the franchise tag.
Still, to cash in even bigger, each player would have been required to make it through the next two seasons both healthy and effective, while working for far less than they’re now making. With Hernandez poised to miss his third straight game with an ankle injury (Sal Paolantonio of ESPN reports that Hernandez isn’t likely to play) and with Gronkowski struggling with hip and back pain only three years after a back injury wiped out his final season of college football and caused him to drop out of round one, the decision to squeeze the bird in the hand is looking better and better.
Though the Pats still have plenty of other weapons, they need to get the most out of Hernandez and Gronkowski if they hope to get back to the Super Bowl — and to win it for the first time since 2004. Regardless of whether that happens, Hernandez and Gronkowski should take some solace in their current health predicaments that they made the right decision to take the money and run. Even if the run for now entails a limp.