Rob Gronkowski is ready to show up for Patriots minicamp, so that means it’s time for the team to do right by their star tight end.
Up until now, Rob Gronkowski’s decision to stay away from Patriots OTAs has given the team a nice excuse to hold off on improving his contract. Now that the dynamic receiver is committed to attending the team’s minicamp this week, it’s time for the team to answer his attendance with some cold, hard, cash.
It’s a bonus for the Patriots that Gronkowski is “excited” for the three-day event. Most veterans would much rather spend time with their families or extend their vacations rather than attend minicamp. Gronkowski’s exuberance to play the game of football is part of what helps him be so productive.
What Gronkowski isn’t excited about is his current contract. He’s due to earn $8 million of base salary this year which isn’t close fair compensation for a player of his caliber. It does make him the highest paid tight end on the season, but that’s not really how he should be judged. Gronkowski’s impact on the Patriots offense transcends his position.
He is, by far, the team’s top returning receiver. Despite missing two games last season he still led the Patriots offense with 69 receptions. The next highest totals from last season belonged to Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola. Neither player will be catching passes from Tom Brady again this season.
The reality is Gronkowski will be expected to shoulder an even heavier portion of the New England offense this season. That, of course will open him up to even more hits in 2018. It’s perfectly natural for the talented tight end to want to make more money while he still can. He hasn’t been the most durable player in the league during his eight-year pro career.
The right thing for the Patriots to do is to replicate the compensation structure they put in place last season. Right around minicamp, they chose to add $5.5 million in incentives to his deal. Enacting the same strategy this season would give Gronkowski a chance to earn the salary he’s worth to the Patriots.
The Patriots don’t need to hand Gronk a new long-term contract, but they do need to pay him fairly for the 2018 season. That’s going to require a revamp of his current contract before he takes too many practice reps for Bill Belichick.