Rob Gronkowski is a professional football player. But he’s also a businessman. He so subtly reminded us of that on Monday night.
After the New England Patriots picked up the option to keep Gronkowski in New England through 2019, the tight end went to Twitter and said, “If ya think about it that Option pick up basically equals pay cut the next 4 seasons… (thinking-face emoji). I don’t work hard for those reasons. Haha (weightlifting emoji; football emoji).”
Now, the most dangerous thing one could do in this situation is to judge the man on 140 characters or less. So to read Gronkowski’s tweet and immediately come to the conclusion that he’s unhappy or that he’s getting ready to hold out is absurd, and quite frankly, borderline psychotic.
The first thing you should do is look into the actual contract itself, and what the Patriots actually did on Monday.
Gronkowski signed a six-year, $54 million extension before the 2012 season. It was an add-on to his rookie contract, which was in effect through the 2013 season. On Monday, the Patriots picked up his option bonus, which essentially picked up the final four years of the six-year contract, keeping him in New England through the 2019 season.
They had to pick up this option before NFL free agency began on Wednesday. Obviously, it was a no-brainer. But make no mistake about it, that option was an advantage for the team, as is the money they will be paying Gronkowski the next four seasons.
In 2016, the NFL salary cap will be set at about $155 million. That’s nearly a $12 million increase from last year’s salary cap. And since 2012 — the year Gronkowski signed his extension — the salary cap has increased by nearly $35 million.
It’s resulted in some big money being spent during the early stages of this year’s free agency period. Look no further than Brock Osweiler’s four-year, $72 million deal ($37 million guaranteed) with the Houston Texans. Granted, quarterbacks are the highest paid players in the league. But Osweiler has never even played a full NFL season, spending most of the last four years as Peyton Manning’s backup. In fact, while Osweiler’s 10 touchdown passes in eight games in 2015 were a career high, Gronkowski has only finished one season with less than 10 touchdown receptions, in six years as an NFL tight end.
If you want to compare Gronkowski’s contract in a more realistic light, you can do so with 26-year-old tight end Dwayne Allen, who just re-upped with the Colts on a four-year, $30 million deal. Allen finished last season with only 16 receptions for 109 yards and one touchdown in 13 games. In his career, Allen has only 91 receptions, 1,045 yards receiving, and 13 touchdowns.
Gronkowski turns 27 in May. He finished last season with 72 receptions for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns. So, yes, Gronkowski had more receiving yards last year than Allen has in his entire career. In fact, Gronkowski has already had three seasons where he’s caught for more yards in each single season than Allen has in his career. And in case you’re looking to compare their career stats, Gronkowski has 380 receptions, 5,555 yards receiving, and 65 touchdowns.
So it’s safe to say that, in Gronkowski’s perfect world, his average annual salary isn’t anywhere close to someone like Allen - if we’re strictly comparing contracts at the tight end position. Heck, you could make the argument that Gronkowski should be one of the highest paid players in the entire league. And if that thought is going through my mind, you can only imagine what’s going on in Gronkowski’s head.
That’s where we get back to that tweet. As playful as it was — and ultimately, it was playful — Gronkowski doesn’t just throw out the words “pay cut” on social media without some type of meaning behind it. He may seem like a big goof when the microphones are in his face or when he’s dancing like a maniac on the Gronk Cruise. But he’s no dummy. And he has a lot of smart people in his corner.
The smartest is probably his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who isn’t shy about telling people how he tried to fight another agent who was also trying to represent Gronkowski out of college. The other agent backed down, according to Rosenhaus, and here we are.
If you think the fight is going to stop there, you’re nuts. It might not continue in the form of a hold out this year, but if Gronkowski continues to put up ridiculous numbers, both he and Rosenhaus absolutely understand that the next punch is theirs to throw.
He reminded us of that on Monday night.