Some New England Patriots fans are having a hard time reconciling with the fact that Rob Gronkowski — perhaps the greatest tight end in NFL history — was only worth a fourth-round pick.
Not only that, but the Patriots also had to give up a seventh-round pick to get the deal done. (More on that later.)
But that’s what happened. The Patriots shipped a seventh-round pick and Gronk to the Bucs for a fourth-round pick, of which Tampa Bay had two. The Patriots got the later selection.
Quite frankly, the Patriots are lucky they got anything in return for Gronkowski, who carries a $10 million cap hit. Gronkowski didn’t want to come back to play with Jarrett Stidham and the Patriots. He wanted to catch passes from Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. But if he really wanted to force the Patriots’ hand, he could have filed for reinstatement. Then the Patriots would have had to free up $8 million in cap space to get him on their roster. That’s not easy. So, they probably would have been forced to cut Gronkowski before the reinstatement went through. Then the Bucs could have had Gronk for free.
But Gronkowski did the Patriots a solid by waiting until the trade unfolded before making his return official.
“Rob could have come out of retirement, become reinstated, and put the Patriots in a tough situation cap-wise, but he decided not to do that,” Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said on ESPN. “He decided to be patient and really allow this to work out.”
The Patriots had no leverage in a deal with the Bucs. If they didn’t say yes to Tampa Bay’s offer, then what? Gronkowski wasn’t going to come out of retirement to catch passes from Gardner Minshew or Matthew Stafford, so the Patriots couldn’t shop him around the league. And the Patriots couldn’t afford Gronkowski even if he was willing to consider returning to the Patriots.
So, their options were to trade him for something or simply cut him. In all, Gronkowski was deemed worthy of a late fourth-round pick since that late seventh has no actual value in trade terms.
Our guess on why it was included? The Patriots didn’t want to use 13 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. They honestly probably threw it in for free. By the end of the draft, the Patriots would rather sign undrafted free agents than use a 13th pick on a player.
It was a better deal than other teams have negotiated for retired players. The Seattle Seahawks got just a fifth-sixth-round swap when they traded running back Marshawn Lynch to the then-
Oakland Raiders. The Baltimore Ravens got just a sixth-seventh-round swap for linebacker Rolando McClain in a trade with the Dallas Cowboys.
It will certainly be odd to see Brady and Gronkwoski both playing with the Buccaneers in 2020, but Patriots fans can at least know that the All-Pro tight end showed no actual malice towards his former organization in his departure. They got something for him. And in this case, that’s better than nothing.