With smoke billowing out of Massachusetts about a possible Rob Gronkowski trade, we look at we know definitively at this point in the ongoing saga around the most dramatic offseason in the NFL for the Patriots.
Rumors are just that: rumors. But when it comes to the future of All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski in New England, there are a lot of them. Gronk may be among the league’s most beloved players for fans, it’s become increasingly clear the Patriots don’t seem to feel the same way and the tight end certainly isn’t feeling the love from his team.
The idea any team would deal Gronkowski, the best player at his position when healthy, would be anathema to any other team, but Bill Belichick and the Pats run differently. And over the last few months, the idea Gronk could get dealt picked up steam.
NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran scuttled the idea of an imminent trade on Friday, but just because it’s not imminent, doesn’t mean it’s not at all likely. .
Here’s what we know for sure about the situation as we attempt to parse the rumors, conjecture, and chatter about New England’s superstar.
This starts with the contract
Gronkowski has two years left, this season and 2019, on a six-year $54 million deal. Even with recent big-money deals signed by tight ends, Gronk remains the fourth-highest paid player in the league at the position.
Given the beating on his body, it’s not hard to see why he feels like he deserves some long-term security. Still just 29, Gronkowski floated retirement after losing in the Super Bowl, though ultimately many around the team believed that was simply a way of telling the Patriots he’s more than happy to not play.
Ben Volin at The Boston Globe, came right out and said as much this spring. We don’t know this for a fact, but it’s not hard to put two and two together with this one. Gronk would like a lot more than two and two put together for his next contract.
The Patriots don’t play around
Once you’re no longer useful to them, Bill Belichick will discard you. Boston Sports Journal‘s Greg A. Bedard wrote in the spring that the longer Gronk threatens retirement, the more likely it becomes the Patriots would trade him should be decide to come back and play.
“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.”
This follows with years of history from the Patriots of being willing to deal a player a year too early than a year too late. Ask Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, Darrelle Revis, Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones and it just happened to Brandin Cooks. The Patriots didn’t want to pay Cooks on a new deal, so they recouped the pick they gave up to get him.
That’s how the Patriots operate.
Teams are interested
And most importantly, there has been actual reporting done—not rumor and innuendo, actual sourced reporting—to suggest a Gronkowski trade is not only something possible, but teams have actively pursued him.
In April, Albert Breer reported multiple teams were preparing to make a run at Gronk. Telling a reporter about such plans may simply have been leverage, but it’s clear teams around the league believe they can pry the Patriots best offensive skill player away from the team.
So to recap: Gronk is so unhappy about his contract situation, he threatened to not play altogether. He plays for a team infamous for dealing talented players for being poor culture fits and Belichick had time to imagine life without Gronkowski while he “contemplated” retirement. Plus, teams would be lining up to trade for him, and in fact, teams have already explored the idea.
None of this is to say the Patriots will trade Rob Gronkowski, but the smoke has started to choke out the “they’re keeping Gronk” oxygen in the room.