Just like that, Rob Gronkowski is back…and gone again.
After briefly retiring, the GOAT tight end will play football again. He just won’t be playing for the New England Patriots. The Patriots have allegedly traded Gronk to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he will rejoin Tom Brady and probably win another Super Bowl. The deal was Gronk and a Patriots seventh-round pick for a Buccaneers fourth-round pick.
When I first saw this news, my jaw dropped. And stayed that way for about 5 minutes as I processed what just happened. I was stunned. I wasn’t surprised that Gronk wanted to come back or even that he wanted to play with Brady again. What shocked me was that Bill Belichick, the toughest trader in football, didn’t get a better return in the trade.
During his short but explosive career, Gronk became the greatest tight end to ever play the game. The dude was a beast. Corners struggled to cover him. Safeties couldn’t tackle him. His size, speed, quick reflexes, and great hands made him a serious passing threat. But a tight end has to do more than run and catch. They have to block. And boy, could he block. It was like having an extra offensive lineman every play. Even hampered by injuries in his final season, he still helped the Patriots dominate on the ground. So why would Belichick accept just one mid-round pick for him?
In the short time since the news of the trade dropped I’ve seen many explanations, like this one.
Regarding the Gronk trade terms, the Patriots really didn’t have much leverage. If Gronk signed his papers to unretire, he would have been on the books for a $12M cap hit for a team that only had about $1M in space.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) April 21, 2020
At first this made sense. The Patriots don’t have a choice if Gronk un-retires and that cap hit would be huge. But as I thought about it more, I wondered why Belichick didn’t at least reach out to other teams to gauge their interest. At the very least, that could force the Buccaneers to consider a more competitive deal. If other teams wanted to pursue Gronk, that would force the price up even higher. Brady might even pressure the Buccaneers to offer more for Gronk to ensure that they play together.
Then I remembered that two years ago, Belichick had allegedly made a deal to trade Gronk to the Detroit Lions. Gronk stopped the trade by saying if he couldn’t play with Brady, then he would retire. What if that same situation played out again? Would Gronk threaten to stay retired if he couldn’t play with Brady? If Gronk stays retired, then the Patriots don’t have to worry about the salary cap hit and they’re right back where they started. And even if Gronk was willing to play somewhere else, his contract is more reasonable than most for a star player.
Although this isn’t a typical rebuilding year like most teams face, the Patriots have lost a lot of talent. They’re thin at offensive line, tight end, linebacker, and wide receiver. The future of the quarterback spot is uncertain. Every bit of draft and trade capital is more important than ever before. It doesn’t make sense to accept such a low offer for such a great player. But then again, we’re talking about the greatest football mind to ever live. Hopefully he’s got some sort of master plan that stuns everyone. In Bill We Trust.
I want to hear your take on this. Let us know what you think in the comments below. If you want to find out who the Patriots should draft using that fourth-round pick, check out our Patriots 2020 NFL Draft Coverage.
-Travis Baltes is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @TravisBaltes