Tight end Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the New England Patriots are gearing up to face the Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, in a Super Bowl LIII showdown.
Gronkowski is in his eighth year as a pro, having been drafted in the second round, 42nd overall out of Arizona, by the Patriots in the 2010 NFL Draft. While the former Wildcat is well known for his larger-than-life personality off the field, he’s also notable for his contributions on the field, including setting a single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end in 2011, hauling in 17 (in a nine-way tie for fifth-most touchdowns by any player in a single season).
Here’s what you need to know:
He Is in the Penultimate Year of His Current Contract
Gronkowski is signed to the Patriots through the 2019 season, after which he will become an unrestricted free agent. He signed his current contract — a six-year, $54-million deal — in 2012, according to Spotrac.
“Rob Gronkowski signed a 6 year, $54,000,000 contract with the New England Patriots, including an $8,000,000 signing bonus, $12,920,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $9,000,000,” the site reports.
Gronkowski’s deal is structured to be front-loaded with his signing bonus and back-loaded with a higher base salary; he was paid a base salary of $3.75 million in 2014, $4,750,000 in 2015, $2,250,000 on injured reserve in 2016, and $4,000,000 in 2017. In contrast, his 2018 base salary is $8 million and it’s set to go up to $9 million for the 2019 season.
His $54-million deal is the second-richest contract on the New England roster, behind cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s five-year, $65-million deal. In terms of average annual value, Gronkowski’s $9 million is fourth among Patriots players, behind quarterback Tom Brady’s $15 million AAV, Gilmore’s $13 million AAV, and free safety Devin McCourty’s $9.5 million AAV.
Positionally, among NFL tight ends, Gronkowski’s $54-million deal is the highest in the game, ahead of Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce ($46.8 million) and Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed ($46.8 million). In terms of average annual value among NFL tight ends, Gronkowski’s contract is good for fourth, behind Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham ($10-million AAV), Kelce ($9.4-million AAV), and Reed ($9.4-million AAV).
His Future in the NFL Seems Uncertain
Gronkowski’s future in the NFL and with the Patriots seems up in the air, according to multiple reports.
News broke during the offseason that New England was in talks to trade the notably injury-prone tight end to the Philadelphia Eagles, news Gronkowski confirmed after the Patriots’ Week 3 loss to the Detroit Lions. According to Sports Illustrated, Gronkowski refused to answer the Eagles calls and threatened to retire, saying he’d rather not play football than play for another organization.
“Yeah, it happened. Brady’s my quarterback,” Gronkowski said, according to the SI report.
As CBS Sports reported in December 2018, Gronkowski was slow to dispel retirement rumors ahead of the 2018 campaign. At the time fo the report, he hadn’t changed course, as far as addressing the topic, side-stepping the issue, but describing the year as a “rollercoaster.”
“I haven’t been thinking about that at all. We’re on the last game, going into Week 17, we’ve got the Jets. And that’s all I’m really worried about as of now,” Gronkowski said, according to the CBS Sports report.
Many believe that Gronkowski will end up announcing his retirement in 2019, especially if the Patriots are able to win Super Bowl LIII — Gronk could go out on a high note.