Tight end Rob Gronkowski gave the Patriots (and everyone else) a surprise after Super Bowl LII, when he declined to commit to playing in 2018. His “I don’t know how you heard about that” reaction to questions about his rumored retirement became the clearest indication that something is up.
And something definitely is up. Based on the rumblings that had caused me to throw a dart during Super Bowl LII about a possible post-game retirement from Gronk, I believe he would have retired if the Patriots had won the Super Bowl. The loss complicated the situation, causing him at a minimum to delay implementation by a few weeks at a minimum — possibly by a full year, or more.
We’ve raised the possibility that Gronkowski is musing about retiring in order to get a new contract. Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston believes that it’s all a leverage play from Gronk; Curran shared his views during a somewhat spirited two-segment appearance on PFT Live. (The full content of every show is available as a podcast.)
That may indeed be the case. Curran pointed out that Gronkowski loves football too much to quit. Still, that hit he absorbed from Jaguars safety Barry Church may have changed Gronkowski’s views on the matter, especially in light of the many surgeries he’s undergone throughout his college and pro career. At some point, enough will indeed be enough.
For Gronk, who could make plenty of money by occupying the very specific niche of simply being Gronk, the question becomes whether it’s worth sacrificing the difference between Gronk money and football money to avoid harm’s way.
However it plays out, the Patriots should try to get clarity sooner than later, so that the team can make the appropriate decisions in free agency and/or the draft. And if it’s a new contract that will keep Gronk from exercising his prerogative to walk away, the sooner the Patriots try to give him a new deal that cements his status for the next few years, the better.