There were rumors that suggested Gronkowski was unhappy with his contract, though he denied the thought of ever planning a holdout. He signed a six-year deal worth $54 million in the 2012 offseason, but as his production got better each year, it was evident that Gronkowski was heavily underpaid.
For example, he'll make just $8 million in base salary this season, and $9 million in 2019, per Spotrac.com. But ESPN's Adam Schefter broke down the incentives in Gronkowski's restructured deal:
Rob Gronkowski now can earn $1.1 million for 70 or more catches, $1.1M for 80 percent playtime, $1.1M for nine or more TD catches, $1.1M for 1,085 receiving yards. He can make three of those four, boosting salary another $3.3M. Base salary remains 8M. Still has two years left.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 30, 2018
So everyone's happy, right? Gronkowski has the chance to maximize his payments with another strong season, and the Patriots don't have to worry about No. 87 possibly holding out in the future.
But the thing is, Gronkowski might not really be all that happy in Foxborough. Let's not forget that he contemplated retirement during the offseason, and that reports suggested he thought about retiring during training camp of last year.
In case you didn't know, there's legitimate tension between Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and the players. In January, ESPN's Seth Wickersham reported the rift between Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft. Ever since that shocking article came out, more reports have suggested that many players in Foxborough have grown tired of 'The Patriot Way'.
So you have a power struggle between your owner, coach and quarterback. You have Brady entering his age-41 season, and we know he's not playing forever. And oh, the AFC might be just a tad bit tougher this year, if the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders play up to their talent levels.
And Gronkowski should stay in New England, why? Who said this dynasty is going to last forever? Who said Brady will be playing past 2019? Who said Belichick will still be coaching this team, especially considering the tension inside the organization?
If Gronkowski decides to keep playing football, when his contract expires in two years, he needs to leave the Patriots. As hard as it is to believe, this organization is on the verge of falling apart, and he simply can't stay around for the mess.
It's obvious that Gronkowski doesn't seem fully appreciated in Foxborough, like many other players who opted to leave (Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, among others). If he hits free agency in 2020, Gronk will be 31. That's not young, but he's certainly capable of playing at high level into his mid-30s.
Gronkowski deserves to go a to a team that will pay him top dollar, treat him with the utmost respect and give him the chance to keep on winning. He's the best tight end of all-time, and there's no way he can finish his career in Foxborough, where the drama and ages of key players like Brady will soon contribute to the downfall.
He just has to look at all the teams that are built to win now and in the next five years. The Los Angeles Rams would love to add Gronk to their super team. Wouldn't he look good joining a Cleveland Browns team that's loaded with rising stars in Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward and Myles Garrett? Gronk would probably have a blast playing with Deshaun Watson's Houston Texans, too.
Gronkowski is a generational talent, easily the best tight and most dominant tight end to ever live. Unfortunately, the constant injury woes mean he probably won't break the tight end records set by Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. But nobody at the position has dominated more than him, and few receivers ever posed the ultimate mismatch factor like he has.
So what Gronkowski needs to do is enjoy these final two years with the Patriots. It may be hard with the drama and all, but he can deal with it. He's already spent eight seasons with the organization, after all.
Then, when he's a free agent in two years, Gronkowski needs to politely thank the Patriots for his services then move on. Chances are, he wouldn't have the same Pro Bowl production in two years, when Brady will likely be retired.
Gronkowski has to go to a team that will pay him, respect him and let him win. Maybe the Patriots are doing two of those right now, but it won't be the case when he hits free agency in March of 2020.