The sudden-but-not-surprising decision of the Patriots to release receiver Antonio Brown takes them from being the definite Super Bowl champions to the likely Super Bowl champions. But there’s a way to push the needle back toward “definite.”
Well, there are two. They can trade for cornerback Jalen Ramsey (never rule out the Patriots swooping in), or they can lure tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement.
Weeks ago, we reported (based on a source close to the situation) that a personal appeal from quarterback Tom Brady would be a significant factor in whether Gronk comes back. With Brady losing one of the best receivers in the game, Brady may be privately pining even more for the best tight end currently not in the game.
Gronk has until the Tuesday after Week 13 to emerge from retirement and return to the Patriots. For now, things are going very well; indeed, the Pats beat the Steelers by 30 without Brown. But if they hit a rough spot (at this point a rough spot would constitute winning a game by fewer than 20 points), maybe Brady stops using his phone to tweet complaints about penalties and starts texting football emojis to Gronk.
Then, after Gronk responds with a few eggplant emojis and laughs about it like he’s nine years old (and we love him for that), maybe Gronk comes back.