And while Tom Brady is not lobbying for his return, another member of the Patriots has staked a case for Gronk’s return. Appearing on The Greg Hill Show Friday morning on Boston radio station WEEI, Julian Edelman was brutally honest about the Patriots’ current need at tight end.
The Patriots have gone through a revolving door at the tight end position since Gronkowski announced his retirement in March. New England first signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson. While both were cut, Watson was resigned for Week 7 after another injury necessitated the move.
Along with those two, Eric Saubert, Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson, and Andrew Beck all vied for a roster spot to no avail. Matt LaCosse, currently hurt, along with Ryan Izzo and newly acquired Eric Tomlinson round out the tight ends on the current Patriots roster.
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Can the Patriots Afford Gronk?
Gronkowski still has one year left on his current contract and has a cap hit of $2 million in dead money. If he were to come back, the Patriots would likely prorate the contract at the very least. But even if they offer the full $2 million, it would be enough for New England to stay under the cap.
The Patriots are currently paying around $6 million total for the four tight ends on the roster, with Ryan Izzo making the most at $2.8 million. The Patriots would make Gronkowski their third-highest paid tight end if he comes out of retirement.
One major issue that could arise, however, is a failed drug test. Gronkowski recently partnered with CBD Medic to help recover from injuries. The NFL currently prohibits the use of CBD products as a means of medicinal relief which could create a problem if Gronk decides to end his retirement.
The Patriots DO Need It
The New England tight end unit of LaCosse and Izzo currently has just nine total receptions in six games for New England, totalling 169 yards and one touchdown reception. That’s on pace for 24 catches for 451 yards and three touchdowns over a 16-game season.
Even in Gronkowski’s worst statistical season back in 2016, he played just eight games but still managed 25 catches individually for 540 yards and three touchdowns. His season was cut short due to injury but he may have been in line for one of his best seasons ever, even playing in a limited capacity.
The tight end has been a major piece of the Patriots offense for much of Bill Belichick’s coaching tenure. But this season, Belichick is trying to make do with an abundance of versatile receivers and pass-catching running backs to make up for the lack of tight end production. But should Gronkowski come back, the Patriots receiving game and especially the running game would take a major step forward.