By: Jake Mackey
On Tuesday afternoon the New England Patriots and Rob Gronkowski came together on a deal to restructure the injury prone tight end’s contract. Before Tuesday, Gronkowski would have been the fourth highest paid tight end in the National Football League behind the likes of Jimmy Graham, Travis Kelce, and Jordan Reed.
If anybody knew this was blasphemous it was Rob Gronkowski and his agent Drew Rosenhaus. When Rob Gronkowski sent out a tweet in March of 2016 talking about how underpaid he was, saying he “don’t work hard for those reasons” it was comical to see the reaction of Patriots fans trying to defend themselves saying that Gronk didn’t care about how underpaid he was. Spare me. If anyone deserved the money after 2015 it was him. He missed only two games over the previous two seasons and caught 154 balls, with 23 touchdowns.
Gronkowski was well on his way to another dominant season in 2016 until he went down in week 12 with yet another season ending back injury, an injury that has plagued him since his college days. Many, such as Steve Burton in Decemeber thought that Gronk’s injury may have the chance to impact his career coming to an abrupt end. At the time, things seemed dire. I personally wrote on my other blog that the Patriots season was over due to Gronk’s injury. I thankfully was wrong, the Patriots did not miss him (except for the first three quarters of the Super Bowl) but at the time I had good reason to believe that they were doomed without him.
In 2012, the Patriots offense was anemic in the AFC Championship against Baltimore, lacking a big play threat on offense with Gronk sidelined with a broken arm. In 2013, Tom Brady was throwing passes to Austin Collie, Aaron Dobson,Matthew Mulligan, and going deep to Matthew Slater in the AFC Championship in Denver while Gronk nursed his torn ACL. Due to the fact that I was not overly impressed with what Martellus Bennett brought to the table throughout 2016, I did not think the Patriots offense would be able to get through the postseason without their big play threat. However, in Josh McDaniels best performance yet, the Patriots were able to find a different hero in each playoff game to make up for the absence of number 87. Dion Lewis had three touchdowns in the divisional round against Houston, Chris Hogan with nine receptions, 18- yards, and two touchdowns in the AFC Championship, and who can forget about James White’s epic 14 catch performance in Super Bowl LI.
The moral of the story is that the Patriots proved in 2016 that you can move forward without Rob Gronkowski. Take out Martellus Bennett and plug in Dwayne Allen and you have a serviceable second option in an offense that already consists of Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, James White, and oh yeah Tom Brady for one more season (hot take to come later).
Adam Schefter details Gronk's incentives in a piece for ESPN.com, but the gist of it is that he can earn $10.75 million in 2017 if he plays 90-percent of the time, has 80 receptions, 1200 yards, or earns All-Pro recognition. He has to earn it by staying on the field.Certainly it is a deal that works out well for both sides for a multitude of reasons.