Two weeks ago, rumors started to surface that the New England Patriots were looking into potentially trading tight end Rob Gronkowski earlier this offseason. At that point, Gronkowski had not yet sat down with head coach Bill Belichick to guarantee his full commitment to returning in 2018. While the exact nature of those trade talks remain unclear, the Patriots reportedly had talks with four teams.
On Monday, The MMQB’s Albert Breer joined Fox Sports’ The Herd with Colin Cowherd to talk about the trade rumors surrounding the NFL’s best tight end and those four teams in particular: “I don’t think they were shopping Gronk to the entire league, but there were some teams they trust that I know they talked to: Detroit, Tennessee, Houston, San Francisco – you guys can make the connections there.”
Those connections are easy to find: The Detroit Lions recently hired ex-Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as head coach and also employ the team’s former director of pro scouting Bob Quinn as general manager. The Tennessee Titans, meanwhile, also have two Patriots alumni on their pay roll: Mike Vrabel, who as a linebacker won three Super Bowls in New England, serves as head coach, former director of college scouting Jon Robinson as GM.
Furthermore, the Houston Texans are coached by ex-Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. New England also appears to have a very good relationship with the San Francisco 49ers and their general manager/head coach duo of John Lynch (who spent final weeks in the NFL at the Patriots’ 2008 training camp) and Mike Shanahan: Last October, New England traded quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the team for a second-round draft pick.
Of course, how concretely those teams talked about trading for Gronkowski with the Patriots is not known at this point – and neither is how willing the Patriots really were about shipping away their best offensive skill position player. If a trade really had happened, though, it is not hard to imagine the outcry in New England and its doom-and-gloom sports talk radio culture (especially if shipped to San Francisco).
Ultimately, Gronkowski and the Patriots were able to figure things out this offseason. “Bill has Gronk in, and at that point, Bill had some discussions about trading him,” Breer told Cowherd. “Gronk sat down with Bill and all indications I got was that Gronk basically affirmed to Bill he wants to be a Patriot. That’s when they decided ‘OK, we’re gonna try to work out contract terms and go forward with this thing,’ but there was a come to Jesus moment.”
So far, there have been no reports that Gronkowski’s contract has been restructured or extended as he is entering its second to last year on a salary cap hit of $10.91 million. But whatever happens, one thing looks certain: the 29-year old will be with the Patriots this year, despite trade rumors and skipping voluntary offseason workouts.