Is Gronk worth it?
I know that question may draw the incredulous ire of the Pats Faithful, but it’s one that Bill Belichick and the rest of the New England Patriots organization should be asking themselves this offseason. While he has shown that he can be the premier tight end in the NFL when healthy, a string of injuries has held Gronkowski back from realizing his full potential. Multiple back, forearm, and knee surgeries have kept the Patriots’ playmaker off the field way too often and his yards, touchdowns, and receptions have dropped each of the last three seasons. Gronk missed the first month of 2013, but he played at an All-Pro level when he returned and transformed the Patriots’ offense into a scoring juggernaut until tearing his ACL and MCL at the hands (or helmet) of Cleveland’s T.J. Ward.
Everyone knows that Rob Gronkowski is an elite talent, freak athlete, and a blue-chip asset to any team lucky enough to have him. The question is whether or not the Pats should keep him under contract. After his record-breaking 2011 season, New England signed him to a six-year, $54 million extension that kept his rookie deal salary structure until after the 2013 season. In other words, Robert Kraft has been able to get a dominant player for dirt cheap up to the upcoming 2014 season, when Gronk’s salary will jump from $630,000 to $3.75 million. Each passing year that base salary will steadily increase, reaching $9 million in 2019, the last year of the contract. The larger issue that Gronk’s injury history raises is New England’s scary lack of depth at the tight end position. Even if Bill Belichick did have the stones to deal Gronk or cut him loose, the Pats’ next best option is Michael Hoomanawanui. After that, a couple of undrafted rookies and fullback James Develin are the remaining options that could be plugged in at tight end. Unless one of those guys develops quickly, the Patriots have no choice but to pray for a healthy Gronk.
I’m not suggesting that Gronkowski isn’t worth the value of his contract. There’s nobody better than him when he isn’t banged up, the Patriots’ offense is completely transformed when he’s on the field, and Tom Brady may just suffer a mental breakdown if he loses his star tight end one more time. Looking at the depth chart, it’s clear that Gronk is a precious commodity. However, if he keeps missing games due to injury, it’s hard to justify spending so much money to have him watch from the sidelines in a walking boot or arm cast. There’s no easy answer or solution here, but the Patriots should start trying to find one before they’re out $54 million and holding Invincible-style tryouts for tight ends.
What do you all think?