There has been talk this offseason about New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and his possible displeasure at his current contract. The Patriots picked up an option that tacked four more seasons onto his deal to keep the All Pro under contract through the 2019 season.
When Gronkowski signed the 6-year, $54 million contract extension in 2012, it was the largest for a tight end in history. It served as a hedge against future injuries for Gronkowski, but it also allowed the Patriots to retain his services for an extended period of time.
What was once the top deal on the market is now fairly cheap when you compare Gronkowski to his “contemporaries” (he is peerless, hence the quotation marks). Four other tight ends average more money on their deals than Gronkowski at this point in time, and that number will only increase as Gronkowski finishes out the final four years of his deal.
The Patriots have no need to adjust Gronk’s contract until after the 2017 season, when his base salary spikes up to $8 million, and the team is set to have the most cap space in the entire league next season. Adjusting Gronkowski’s contract wouldn’t really help the team retain any of their key free agents after the 2016 season.
But even so, it appears the two sides are working on a contract amendment for Gronkowski:
Agents for Rob Gronkowski Drew, Jason Rosenhaus here at Pats today. Source says they're working with team on new deal. Not imminent.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 31, 2016
While the deal is “not imminent,” the fact the two sides are together at the table is an important development. Gronkowski will be 31 for his first season after his current contract, which would still make him a valuable contributor. He has remained fairly healthy over the past two seasons and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another extension take place.
The Patriots could capitalize on their cap space in 2017 by converting Gronkowski’s 2018 and 2019 base salaries into guaranteed bonuses and tacking on an extra couple of years at the end of his contract. It’s probable that any new deal with Gronkowski would average more than the $10 million per season that Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham currently receives to set the market. This would give Gronkowski some immediate financial security, while also giving the Patriots additional years of control.
It’s also good to note that Gronkowski shares an agent with edge defender Jabaal Sheard, who is also up for a big contract at the end of this season. Perhaps there could be a little quid pro quo taking place behind the scenes.