The New England Patriots restructured the contract of TE Rob Gronkowski to allow him to make up to $5.5 million more in 2017, and didn’t ask for anything in return. Gronkowski needs to play at an All Pro level to receive all the incentives, but he didn’t take a pay cut in 2018 or 2019, he didn’t add a year to his contract, and he didn’t save the team any cap space.
There was no financial reason for the Patriots to strike this deal, especially with Gronkowski returning from injury, and yet this new contract reportedly “keeps both sides happy,” per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
This was the Patriots doing a solid for Gronkowski, and it left me with a thought: how does Malcolm Butler feel about all of this?
Like Gronkowski, Butler holds little leverage in his contract struggles, and literally every person can agree that the All Pro cornerback was and is far more underpaid than Gronkowski has been. The Patriots reportedly offered Butler $6-7 million per year for a new contract during the 2016 season, which would include his low-price and team-controlled 2016 and 2017 seasons in the calculations.
And while that offer makes some sense from a team control perspective, Butler has to be scratching his head at how the team is so willing to open its checkbook for Gronkowski and not for himself.
The Patriots have just as much incentive to give Butler an opportunity to make an extra $5.5 million (Interception bonuses? Playing time bonuses? Pro Bowl or All Pro bonuses?) as they did with Gronkowski, which is none at all.
Butler is projected to play the 2017 season on a $3.91 million contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Would Butler have been more open to that extension offered last year if it came with an extra $5.5 million in incentives in 2017?
We may never find out as the Patriots signed CB Stephon Gilmore to a huge contract, signaling a possible end for Butler. It’s just hard not to think of Butler when the Patriots are giving away extra money to their stars.