Tight end Rob Gronkowski is retired, but he continues to be under contract with the Patriots. Which becomes a practical impediment to a potential unretirement by Gronk in 2020, so that he can reunite with quarterback Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.
Yes, the literal NFL newshound owned by my Internet son, PFT Commenter, recently got the tennis ball rolling on the possibility of Gronk ending his one-year hiatus from football and playing for the Buccaneers. It can happen only if the Patriots release Gronkowski’s rights or trade him.
Given the extent to which the Pats are pressed against the cap, Gronkowski could force the issue by unretiring, dropping his $9 million salary back onto the books. To absorb his salary, the Patriots would have to quickly create cap space or release him.
The strength of Gronk’s leverage would (or at least should) make the Patriots less inclined to insist on a major return for the future Hall of Famer. On a recent edition of PFTOT, Simms and I speculated that the Patriots likely would accept tight end O.J. Howard or tight end Cameron Brate for Gronk, given that one of them would become unnecessary to the Bucs if Gronk joins Brady in Tampa Bay. But the Bucs could (or at least should) get more for either of them in return for Gronkowski, based on the ease with which he can force his way out of town — if he chooses to come back and play.
In the coming weeks, keep an eye on the Patriots’ cap space. Unless and until they have the room to absorb Gronk’s $9 million base salary, he could at any time compel them to make a quick decision to either create the cap space elsewhere or to unload him from the roster ASAP.