Rob Gronkowski trade rumors are starting to fly in NFL circles with the Rams, Vikings and 49ers as the top potential desinations. First, we'll explore why the Patriots would be interested in trading a player of Gronk's caliber and then we'll look at which teams make the most sense.
The first two letters in “P-A-T-S” this offseason stands for “passive aggressive,” as it seems there really was something to that ESPN story last December that outlined how there was turmoil in the Patriots organization.
We’ve had key players on the Pats – including Tom Brady – “liking” Malcolm Butler’s Instagram post outlining how he didn’t do anything wrong to deserve a benching in the Super Bowl, and we’ve had Gronkowski threatening retirement every other day - as well as praising Danny Amendola for getting out of New England in order to finally be “free.”
Strange as it is, it truly looks like at this stage of things that Brady will be playing football in a Patriots uniform longer than Gronk – despite Gronk being 12 years younger than the GOAT.
Tied-in NFL writer Albert Breer said a year and a half ago that he believes Gronkowski will be traded away from the Patriots if he becomes too much of a distraction.
“Eventually there comes a point where doing all of that work to keep him healthy and breaking all the rules that you have for everybody else to keep him on board – eventually a guy’s production doesn’t match what it takes to do all of that,” Breer said in November of 2016 on NBC Sports Boston. “You get to a point where the contract situation isn’t worth it anymore. Down the line, [Gronkowski] could be the surprise trade guy.”
Now, this was before the Patriots won a Super Bowl without the best tight end in the game. Gronk was on the sidelines for the Patriots entire 2016 playoff run that ended with the come-from-behind win over the Falcons. No doubt, Bill Belichick believes he can win a Super Bowl without No. 87 – mostly because he’s already done it.
Backing up this line of thinking is a report by ESPN’s Jeff Darlington this week that says since season’s end, “sources say [Belichick] has expressed frustration with those close to him about Gronkowski, specifically questioning whether he remains ‘all-in,’ a critical aspect of Belichick’s blueprint for success.”
The story continues: “Examples of Belichick’s frustrations are a nuanced as his discontent with Gronkowski’s messages in a recent Instagram post regarding former Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola, who left New England to sign a contract with the Miami Dolphins. Beneath a video of him hugging Amendola that Gronkowski posted on March 14, he wrote, in part, ‘Be FREE. Be HAPPY.”
Gronkowski has been trying to emulate the Brady way in the past year, in part by going to see Brady’s doctor/trainer Alex Guerrero. Guerrero, Brady and likely now – Gronkowski - are all about “positive energy,” which directly contrasts with Belichick’s cynical coaching nature and personality. In the original ESPN piece regarding tumult within the Patriots, it was said that Brady has grown tired of Belichick’s nothing-is-ever-good-enough coaching style.
Brady, obviously, isn’t going anywhere after the Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo. But the Patriots may already have their eyes on Gronk’s replacement at tight end. Belichick himself met with South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst at both the NFL Combine and at Hurst’s pro day.
Given Belichick’s past with all players but Brady, it seems as though Gronk’s time in New England is running out.
“The longer Gronkowski goes without saying he’s all in, the chances of him being traded increases,” a Patriots team source told the Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard this past weekend.
Belichick has not been afraid to trade players within his own division or conference in the past (see: Bledsoe, Drew). But he has only really done this with talent he knows he can beat.
If Rob Gronkowski is healthy, there is no football mind in the world that can slow him down - including Belichick, so it would be in his best interest to trade him to the NFC and not a tight end needy AFC team like the Dolphins (Gronk would get to reunite with his buddy Amendola in South Beach, but this scenario is highly unlikely).
The three teams that stand out as trade destinations for Gronk are the Rams, Vikings and 49ers. All of these teams are NFC contenders and are in the business of stockpiling talent. Given the injury risk that Gronkowski owns and the threats of retirement, it is believed that it would only take a first round pick to acquire the big tight end.
The Rams have shown interest in landing Odell Beckham Jr as they look to surround Jared Goff with weapons, but landing Gronk instead might be an even bigger get for Los Angeles. Gronk would certainly like the move to LA as well as he has expressed interest in getting into the movie business this offseason. The Rams own the 23rd pick overall and would likely need to include a late round pick as well to get the job done. But this is surely something Rams GM Les Snead would consider given the franchise's Super Bowl or bust modus operandi.
The Vikings are in a similar situation as the Rams as they are going all-in on the next few years after signing Kirk Cousins to mega-bucks. As any fantasy football owner will tell you, Kyle Rudolph has been good but not great in his career and the Vikings are said to be looking at an upgrade or at least someone who can complement Rudolph. Minnesota owns the 30th pick in the first round. Belichick is a huge fan of second round picks because they offer more cap value, so the Vikings might be looking at having to surrender multiple second rounders in order to secure No. 87.
Finally, the 49ers are the team most talked about when it comes to a Gronkowski trade - simply because of his familiarity with QB sensation Jimmy Garoppolo. San Francisco is desperate for an elite pass catcher for Garoppolo - as a running back (Carlos Hyde) led the team in catches last season with 59. The Niners pick ninth overall in the draft and that pick alone might be enough to do the trick. As shown in the Garoppolo deal last fall, Belichick is comfortable in dealing with 49ers GM John Lynch, who nearly closed out his career with Belichick and the Pats in 2008 (Lynch went through training camp but wound up retiring).