Save Rob Gronkowski, few tight ends in the league have it as good as Aaron Hernandez does this week.

Even in the NFL, most 22-year-olds don't have the opportunity to rake in $41.1 million in five years.

Naturally, it raises the question of Wes Welker's contract, a graying old man in contrast to the former Gator.

While Welker and Bill Belichick are passing the press back and forth, dodging questions about the issue and pointing across the room to the other guy, it is worth revisiting- does Welker deserve the money?

The reality is, Welker isn't 25 anymore.

But he's not 38 either.

There is no black and white here. There is a middle ground.

Welker has proven to be one of the most incredible athletes to put on the Patriots uniform in years. When some thought he would be finished after tearing his ACL and missing the postseason in 2009-2010, he returned on time for Opening Day of the following season, ready to continue his role in making the Patriots offense work. To suggest that he will not be fit to run the offense with Tom Brady in three years is getting away from the pattern Welker has worked so hard to establish.
Another thing to consider is how long Brady has left in the league. He doesn't seem to be losing steam just yet, but the clock is ticking on the 35-year-old future Hall of Famer. Should the Patriots risk leaving their quarterback without his most trusted weapon for the next few years? With Brady at age 38 and Welker at 34 this time in 2015, one might even suggest that Brady would be closer to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel than Welker would be.

The one thing that should scare Patriots ownership is how dirty Welker is willing to get for the team's cause. No one takes heavier hits than number 83. Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick probably see Welker in their nightmares, signing a big contract before stepping onto the field, only to be concussed by a heavy hitting linebacker over the middle.

Still, the fact is, they have a guy who understands the Brady/Belichick offense and who is probably going to be healthy for at least two more years, potential concussions/neck problems aside. If any player were to be locked down in 2012, it very well should be him.

Lucky for the Patriots, Welker is willing to play their contract game, never taking a cue from teammate Logan Mankins. Who knows? The Patriots might even slap another franchise tag on him in 2013.

If they fail to keep Welker in a Patriots uniform, however, then they better be ready to dig for another receiver talented and resilient enough to work in Brady's slot. That guy might be Hernandez. Everything might have already fallen into place. Having the best tight end tandum might be enough in the long run.

Sometimes, however, the extra security blanket is worth the money.