Over the past week, rumors have surfaced that there is growing discussions at One Patriot Place regarding the future of Rob Gronkowski. The All-Pro tight end caused some mild controversy after Super Bowl 52 when reports surfaced that he was contemplating retirement. Some believed this had to do with his remarkably small contract (relative to his skill). Others believed it was because of his long history of injuries. Regardless, this caused minor panic around New England as Patriots fans began to imagine a world without the Incredible, Incomparable Gronk.
Despite these early rumors, nothing more had come of the retirement talk until recently. Multiple outlets including NBC Sports Boston and ESPN reported that the idea of moving on from Gronkowski has been gaining momentum within the Patriots organization. Some believe that Gronk’s unclear answers on whether he will or will not return in 2018 may cause Bill Belichick to trade the star tight end before the upcoming NFL Draft to make sure that the team does not end up with anything should Gronk choose to retire.
The first thing to address is Gronkowski himself. It is highly probable that Gronk has legitimately considered retirement, and it’s hard to blame him. His body has been brutally punished throughout his football career; between college and the NFL, he has had three back surgeries, multiple forearm surgeries, and an intense knee surgery. He has also received a number of significant hits to the head. That is a lot to put on anyone’s body, especially someone of Gronkowski’s size. He has the rest of his life to consider, and it would be reasonable for him to want to preserve his health as best as he could. Should he choose to leave, he would easily be able to find other opportunities, whether in Hollywood, the WWE, or with his brothers in any of their successful fitness businesses.
However, it seems like Gronkowski still enjoys the game of football, and has a lot of love for his teammates. It’s likely that he is still very much interested in playing next season, whether or not he is frustrated with Belichick as the reports claim.
The problem is that Belichick is not gun shy with moves like this. The reporters aren’t wrong when they say that the longer Gronk’s status is up in the air, the more likely a trade becomes. Belichick will want to risk losing Gronk for nothing in return, especially when he knows that he could get a haul in return for the tight end from teams desperate for even a chance at printing up a number 87 jersey with the name Gronkowski on the back.
Is there a legitimate chance that a massive trade is completed with Gronkowski? Yes. Do I think it’s likely? No. Belichick has more to consider than his ego. The Patriots offense carried the team’s defense for large portions of last season, including in the Super Bowl. Had the offense not played at an elite level, the team would not have been nearly as good and would not have come nearly as close to a sixth Lombardi trophy. Gronkowski played a large part in that, evident by his first-team All-Pro selection. While the Patriots defense will improve this season, there will still be major questions and the Patriots offense will need to pick up the slack. Losing Gronkowski would put the Patriots in a much more difficult position. While they have won without him in the past, such as in 2016 when they won Super Bowl 51 without him, there is no denying that his presence changes the Patriots offense from great to elite.
Trading Gronkowski for a number of high draft picks would be prudent for the future. However, the Patriots sacrificed the future when they traded Jimmy Garoppolo and committed to Tom Brady and whatever window he has left. That means sticking with Gronkowski and stretching this ride out for as long as possible. The big loveable tight end will be donning the flying Elvis in 2018.
Until next time – B$