Patriots Cautious With Aaron Hernandez Contract

New England Patriots fourth-round tight end Aaron Hernandez signed a four-year contract earlier this week, and Albert Breer of the Boston Globe reports the Patriots took a cautious approach with his contract.

Breer, who broke the news of Hernandez's failed drug test(s?) while at the University of Florida, reports that Hernandez received a $200,000 signing bonus, far less than the $507,000 signing bonus that Chicago Bears fourth-round defensive end Corey Wootton signed for.

Wootton was selected four spots ahead of Hernandez, and had medical red-flags (knee, neck) headed into the 2010 NFL Draft.

Breer adds that "Hernandez makes up the money in a series of roster bonuses -- $76,000 in 2010, $90,000 in 2011, $104,000 in 2012 and $118,000 in 2013 -- which are each tied to Hernandez making the 53-man roster, meaning he has to get through each offseason clean to collect."

According to a league source, Hernandez not only has to make the 53-man roster to earn those roster bonuses, he needs to stay on the 53-man roster, or be placed on injured reserve or the PUP list, each week of the regular season to earn the full amount of those bonuses.

Hernandez's only guarantee is the $200,000 signing bonus, but if he stays out of trouble, and completes all the off-season workouts, his four-year deal can be worth over $3.4 million dollars, which is what a player chosen in the middle of the second round can expect to receive this summer.

In other Patriots rookie contract news, seventh-round offensive tackle Thomas Welch signed a four-year, $1.859M contract last week, which included a $69,127 signing bonus.

As always, the signing status of the 2010 NFL Draft Class is being tracked right here: Round-by-Round and Team-by-Team.

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