The New England Patriots will head into their game against the Miami Dolphins without one of their best players: Tight end Rob Gronkowski will miss the contest due to a one-game suspension following an unnecessary roughness penalty in Sunday's game versus the Buffalo Bills. The penalty was upheld after yesterday's appeal hearing and now the 28-year old has to sit out the upcoming Monday nighter.
Let's take a closer look at what this means for the Patriots.
The Patriots have a roster spot open for one week.
Gronkowski's suspension means that the NFL's premier tight end will not be part of the team and its 53-man roster for one week. Consequently, New England gains a temporary spot on its active team. There are multiple options how to fill it: Promoting a practice squad player like tight end Will Tye seems like a logical move. However, the team could also opt to sign a player off another team's practice squad or simply leave the spot open (although the latter would have an impact on future practice squad eligibility of those currently on the 10-man squad).
Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister will see increased playing time...
With Gronkowski out this week, New England will have to rely on its backup tight ends to fill his spot atop the position depth chart. This means that both Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister, normally numbers two and three, should see more snaps and practice reps than in weeks past. In the long run, seeing additional practice and game action should help the two further improve their chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady.
...but don't expect the Patriots' game plan to heavily involve the duo.
When the Patriots hosted the Dolphins in week 12, the team used a balanced offensive attack that featured the running backs as the main weapons. Overall, New England saw its backfield account for 35 touches on 67 offensive plays. The tight ends, for comparison, touched the football only six times on 10 passing game targets. Don't expect this number to look drastically different on Monday, as the Patriots' tight ends are not projected to play a prominent role.
New England saves $250,000 in salary cap space.
Due to his one-game suspension, Gronkowski will lose one game check for $250,000. Naturally, New England will get a credit on its 2017 salary cap now that the team does not have to pay the 28-year old his salary for this week. Regarding his contract incentives, Gronkowski is still able to earn the top $5.5 million tier via an All-Pro designation or various receiving statistics (the latter is a long-shot, though) despite his 90% playing time option bring out of reach.