One of the recurring themes of the New England Patriots’ 2018 offseason was rumors surrounding quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski: both sat out voluntary spring practices and were believed to consider retirement — at least until they were back in town for mandatory workouts and declared their intentions to be back with the Patriots for the 2018 season. Ten weeks in, however, the first rumors have started to resurface again.
While some questions about Brady have been raised due to his comparatively mediocre play the last three weeks, the 41-year old is not the subject of the season’s first retirement rumors: Gronkowski is. According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who visited WEEI on Sunday to talk about the Patriots, there is a “good chance” that the 29-year old decides to step away from the game after this season.
“I think if the Patriots had won the Super Bowl [in February] he would have retired,” Florio said. “And I think after this season, which has been very disappointing for him and it is his second straight year with a significant incentive package that we’re probably close to saying he’s not going to hit any of the four markers which each make him $1.1 million and he can make a maximum of $3.3 million that way.”
In late August, Gronkowski’s camp and the Patriots agreed to restructure his contract in a similar way they did last season: if the NFL’s best tight end stays healthy and produces at his usual levels, he will be able to at least hit some of the incentives built in his new deal. Overall, New England added $1 million in per game bonuses to the new contract as well as $3.3 million in incentives.
However, as Florio points out, it appears unlikely that Gronkowski hits his incentives considering how the Patriots’ first ten games went: he is not on pace to reach the 70-catch threshold to earn an additional $1.1 million (Gronkowski currently has 29 catches), and is also not projected to accumulate enough playing time (80% needed, currently at 64.3%), touchdowns (9+ needed, currently at 1), and yards (1,085 needed, currently at 448).
Because of this, Florio thinks that the financial aspect will play a role in Gronkowski’s decision whether or not to continue his career beyond 2018. “I think that will be a factor in his ultimate decision [...] I think there’s a good chance he just walks away after this year unless the Patriots are willing to rip up the last year of that contract and give him some form of security that is not tied to being healthy and producing on the field.”
Florio is not the only man employed by NBC to feel like the end is near when it comes to Gronkowski and the Patriots. NBC Boston’s Tom Curran also spoke with WEEI about the Hall of Famer’s future recently — and offered a similar outlook. “Certainly, when you look at the arch of Gronk’s time here, this is probably the stretch run of Rob Gronkowski as a New England Patriot,” Curran said. “These final games and then the postseason.”
A lot can happen over the rest of the year and into the offseason, so the rumors and the situation surrounding Gronkowski and the Patriots is very much flexible. Just take spring as an example: Gronkowski would not commit to returning after the Super Bowl, while New England was at least exploring his trade value. However, both sides came to an agreement that made him return for at least another year — and it would not be out of the ordinary to see something similar happen again next year.