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Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski needs to play his best football to earn his $5.5 million contract incentive

The NFL's best tight end has to stand out over the next seven games to earn his incentives.

Los Angeles Chargers v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

In March, the New England Patriots and Rob Gronkowski agreed to restructure the star tight end's contract by adding incentive tiers. The new deal was basically structured like this: Depending on his playing time, catches, yards, touchdowns or in one case an All-Pro designation, Gronkowski would earn additional money on top of his $4.25 million base salary.

The concrete breakdown looks as follows:

‪Tier 3 (additional $1.5 million): 70 percent playing time or 60 receptions or 800 receiving yards or 10 TDs.‬

Tier 2 (additional $3.5 million): 80 percent playing time or 70 catches or 1,000 receiving yards or 12 TDs.‬

‪Tier 1 (additional $5.5 million): 90 percent playing time or 80 catches or 1,200 receiving yards or 14 TDs or All-Pro designation.

In short: The NFL's best tight end, who has battled injuries in the past, will get rewarded for staying on the field and producing. So far this season, this has been the case as Gronkowski appeared in all but one game and played 79.9% of offensive snaps (538 of 673). And while the playing time incentive seems to be out of reach, the top tier still is in range.

The veteran needs to play some very good football to earn it, though. First, Gronkowski needs to stay on the field. Then, he needs to average the following numbers through the Patriots' remaining seven games (per's Miguel Benzan):

6 catches a game OR

1.29 TDs a game OR

88.14 yards a game OR

AP All-Pro team

Considering just how good of a player Gronkowski it would not be a surprise to see him hit his $5.5 million escalator. However, his production – while still among the best in the NFL – is trailing a bit behind with New England spreading the wealth more in the passing game. The best chance to earn the additional $5.5 million thus appears to be the All-Pro designation.

And even if that is not reached, the second tier appears to be well in range for Gronkowski.