Rob Gronkowski has a lot of NFL miles on his body. That’s why the Patriots should pay him like a running back moving forward.
There’s no doubt the New England Patriots need to rework Rob Gronkowski’s contract to get him back on the practice field. That doesn’t mean Bill Belichick and the team’s front office shouldn’t be conservative when handling their star tight end. The beating he’s already taken during his NFL career should heavily influence negotiations.
In fact, the Patriots would be smart to treat Gronkowski like a running back moving forward. He shouldn’t line up in the backfield to take handoffs from Tom Brady, but the team should be careful not to sign him to a long-term extension.
Current reports indicate that the Patriots and Gronkowski are “nearing a reworked deal.” It’s unclear whether that means the talented tight end will simply get a raise for this season or if he’s going to get an entirely new contract. If it’s the latter, the Patriots need to proceed with extreme caution.
No one can deny the fact Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in football. He put up 1,084 receiving yards last season in just 14 regular season games. He’s a matchup problem wherever he lines up from opposing defenses. Gronkowski is particularly dangerous in the red zone. His rare combination of size and athleticism allows him to go up over defenders and make tough catches in traffic.
There’s also no denying that injuries are starting to become a problem for the talented receiver. He’s missed 10 regular season games over the last two seasons and his uncertain status in last year’s playoffs was a big issue for Belichick and company. New England officials don’t like to admit they’re dependent on any single player, but when Gronkowski is out of the lineup they’re forced to revamp their offensive game plans.
At 29 years of age it’s highly unlikely Gronkowski is going to experience improved health as his career goes on. Over the next few seasons, it’s Gronkowski is likely to miss even more time for the Patriots.
That’s why handing him a long-term contract that will pay him well into his 30s would be a bad investment for New England. Instead, they should think of him like a high-priced running back. The longer they can placate him with big money, short-term deals, the better.
New England should study just how the Pittsburgh Steelers have handled Le’Veon bell as a blueprint. He continues to put up big numbers for the team every season, but they refuse to hand him a long-term contract. Franchising him is an expensive choice, but it prevents the Steelers from overcommitting to a running back who could stop producing at any moment due to his age.
As a tight end, Gronkowski isn’t quite as fragile as a player like Bell, but he is three years older. New England doesn’t need to worry about him turning 30, but they might need to worry about paying him big money at 32.
That’s why New England needs to treat Rob Gronkowski like a running back. Paying him big money moving forward is perfectly fine, but giving him a long-term deal could be disastrous for the Pats.