Gronk's Tough Decision


New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski hasn’t announced whether or not he will return to the Pats for a 10th season.  According to teammates, he is leaning towards coming back for a shot at another ring.

Hot take alert, Rob Gronkowski will not make a decision to return until after the NFL Draft.  This is not the first time that the tight end has thought about hanging up his cleats.  After the 2017 season he also debated on retirement, but ultimately came back to play.

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At last year’s NFL Draft, Head Coach Bill Belichick attempted to move the future Hall of Fame tight end.  Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, stated his star tight end would make a decision on his future in the “next couple” of weeks.

Reports surfaced stating the Patriots and Lions had a deal in place that would have sent Gronk to the Motor City last year.  Gronk nixed the trade and threatened retirement.  Gronk stated he would only play with quarterback Tom Brady – “Brady is my quarterback, that’s all.  I wasn’t going anywhere without Brady,” Gronk stated in an interview in 2018.

For Gronkowski, it would be wise to wait and see what New England does in the coming weeks.  With NFL Free Agency around the corner and the Draft, Gronk can see what the Patriots do to address the tight end position. 

If Gronk commits to returning to New England for his 10th season, he loses his leverage and the man under the hoodie can ship him off like he intended to do in the off-season.  Last season proved to be difficult for Gronk.  He missed three games with an injury, and his statistical performance dropped.  He caught 47 balls for 682 yards and three touchdowns in 2018.

If the Patriots do move on from Gronkowski, or he retires, the Patriots will need to address the position in Free Agency and the NFL Draft.

Currently, besides the three time Super Bowl Champion, the Patriots have Jacob Hollister and Ryan Izzo on the depth chart at tight end.  Dwayne Allen was released by the team, which will free up around $7.3 million in cap.  That move will give New England roughly around $24 million to use in free agency.

A wild card of the two players on the roster is Izzo, the former 7th round draft choice last season out of Florida State. The 6’-4" physical tight end can block and pass - he will get after you in the blocking game.  This past season, Izzo was placed on injured reserve the day after cuts were made by the team.  In his time at Florida State, he caught 54 passes for 761 yards with 6 touchdowns.  Izzo doesn’t carry a cap hit like Allen - Izzo is expected to make $512K next season.  For the team, Izzo is an intriguing Bill Belichick type player who could impact the roster next season.

The Patriots should look to the draft to replace Gronk no matter his decision.  At the NFL Combine, Iowa TE Noah Fant ran a lightning fast 4.51 40-yard dash.  His time was the fastest at the combine for tight ends.  At 6'-4", 249 pounds, Fant showed more impressive speed than all receivers at the Combine.  

Fant’s Iowa teammate T.J Hockenson is another option in the draft that New England can pursue with the 32nd pick in the first round. The 6'-5", 251 pound Hockenson is projected as the blocker from a tight end perspective in the draft this year.  Both TE’s will be selected in the first round.  It will be doubtful that Fant will be there at 32 when New England picks, but Hockenson is very much in play for Belichick.

Mock drafts around the NFL have the Patriots in on both of these players.  In a Bleacher Report Mock Draft, they have the Patriots selecting Fant with the 32nd pick in the draft.  It will remain to be seen if he falls that far back in the first round.  Based off Fant’s Combine, he could be selected much earlier in the draft.  Look for the Denver Broncos to be in on Fant if they elect to not address the defensive line.

The Patriots will also look to free agency to add depth to the tight end position.  One name to watch is Denver Broncos tight end Matt LaCosse.  He is expected to be non-tendered by the Broncos.  LaCosse is a receiving tight end that can block when called upon.

There isn’t an impact tight end available on the market, but viable options to either fill Gronk’s role if he were to retire or even give him depth within the position. Tyler Eifert, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Luke Willson and former Patriot A.J. Derby could all be possible options. Old friend Martellus Bennett on his Twitter account joked he is willing to comeback.

This off-season will be a pivotal point in the Patriots future.  New England needs to address finding a replacement for Tom Brady, the possibility for defensive end Trey Flowers and left tackle Trent Brown to exit Foxboro with big pay days with other teams, and Gronkowski’s future.  The Miami Dolphins are the frontrunners to land Flowers.

The team needs to focus on the future and begin to find the next Rob Gronkowski for this passing game.  For Gronk, look for him to announce his future once he can see what the Patriots do from a talent perspective in free agency and the draft.  I would not be surprised if Belichick makes a bold move surrounding Gronkowski as he looks to build a new nucleus of future Patriots.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisHenrique.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Gronk's Tough Decision
Gronk's Tough Decision
Boston Sports Syndicate
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