Maybe Gronk is headed west and not to retirement or back to New England for the 2018 NFL season.
Considering the way this NFL offseason has already felt like someone is playing a Madden Franchise Mode with real life (Roger Goodell? God?), nothing should be too surprising at this point. So maybe trade rumors involving the league’s most unstoppable one-on-one weapon, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, shouldn’t make any of us bat an eye.
Then again, the thought of Gronk hauling in TD passes in another uniform is somewhat startling simply because it’s felt like his two options were a return to the Patriots or retirement — which for the effervescent Gronkowski would not be just sitting around counting his money, of course. Allow us to present a third option: a reunion with former teammate Jimmy Garoppolo on the San Francisco 49ers.
Actually, allow Greg A. Bedard of Boston Sports Journal to make that argument (subscription required), since he’s the one with the inside scoop. Bedard talked to a number of sources who felt a Gronkowski trade was something that could actually happen since he’s been noncommittal about whether he’s planning to play in 2018.
A Bill Belichick-friendly source agreed with my thinking that once a player makes Belichick start to contemplate life without him, Belichick starts to warm to being without that player. “He imagines you gone,” he said. The longer Gronkowski goes without saying he’s all in, the chances of him being traded increases, the source said.
Though the sources also claim they have heard no chatter about the Pats making it known they’d be open to trade offers, that didn’t stop them from agreeing on where he could go that New England would actually send him.
In terms of the most likely team to deal for Gronkowski, everyone agreed the 49ers would be the ideal trade partner. “Put him back with (Jimmy) Garoppolo, they have nothing at tight end, they have the cap space ($46 million) and maybe (John) Lynch will overpay to make up for the deal Belichick gave him on Jimmy,” one AFC general manager said. “And you don’t have to worry about Gronk in your conference.”
There are other teams thrown in there too, such as the Los Angeles Rams (in on everyone this offseason, or so it seems) and the Houston Texans (viewed as unlikely because they’re in the AFC). But let’s focus on the most fun possibility, which would be Gronk and Jimmy G connecting for touchdowns in Cali. It’s also 100 percent logical as the team needs to upgrade the receiving options around Garoppolo.
Patriots fans already have been grumbling that the team was fleeced in the deal that sent Garoppolo to the 49ers, a potentially rare misstep for a front office that has otherwise earned plenty of the benefit of the doubt. The quarterback’s arrival instantly recharged a franchise in desperate need of a pick me up, and being joined by Gronkowski would accelerate that process immediately.
Picture it now: Garoppolo and Gronkowski celebrating scores together, people actually talking about the Niners, Gronk physically much closer to Hollywood and Patriots fans gritting their teeth a little more, something they’re not that used to doing. If you’re a non-Pats fan and that doesn’t sound like a good time, there’s probably nothing left the NFL could do that would.