It’s official. Rob Gronkowski is coming out of retirement and headed to Tampa for a reunion with Tom Brady.
Just when the NFL world thought the most shocking move this off-season would be Brady’s departure from the New England Patriots, the 42-year-old did it again.
I say that because it’s pretty much a given that Brady had a hand in talking his old friend out of retirement and suiting up for the Buccaneers.
Yesterday, it was confirmed Rob Gronkowski had let the Patriots know he wanted to come out of retirement and go play in Tampa with Tom and that a trade was all but done.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will receive Rob Gronkowski, who still had one year and $10 million on his contract, and a seventh-round pick while shipping their fourth-round pick to New England.
It’s a baffling time to be a member of Pats Nation and the old mantra, In Bill We Trust, is being tested more than it ever has – that’s for sure.
Here’s five things to take from the shocking news…
Rob Gronkowski was clearly tired of New England – not the NFL
In the months leading up to Gronkowski’s retirement, rumours were rife that he was struggling with injury and a trade to Detroit was as good as done.
Yep, Rob Gronkowski was set to be shipped off to the Lions – that is until he threatened to retire, saying he would only ever play for Tom Brady.
His last season as a Patriot was far from his most productive, as he took on more blocking responsibilities, able to put up 682 yards from 47 catches with three touchdowns.
In a revealing August interview with ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the 29-year-old said football was “bringing him down”.
He said: “I was losing that joy in life… I could play right now if I wanted to play. I’m feeling good.
“Physically, I could do it. Mentally-wise, desire-wise, it’s not there… I truly believe going through those tough times, nine years, off the field, on the field, has brought me to this point. I believe I’m on the right path in my life.”
Put that in today’s context and it seems clear what was killing his joy and his desire was New England.
We may never know exactly what happened between Brady, Gronkowski and Belichick in Foxborough but it’s clear there was something very wrong.
Tom Brady’s job just got easier
When news first broke that Brady would be heading to the Buccaneers, it was easy to see why he had made that choice.
In his final season in New England, Brady had bemoaned the lack of talented receivers.
He is now heading to the franchise where the receivers allowed former QB Jameis Winston to put up the most receiving yards in the league.
Just imagine what Brady could do with the likes of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.
But there were always questions about whether Brady could effectively implement his system and Championship-winning culture in the two years he’s contracted there.
Well, now that is going to run far smoother with the help of former team mate Rob Gronkowski.
With a pandemic making off-season workouts more difficult, Gronkowski’s return provides Brady with a familiar target – someone who knows him and how he plays.
He will also be able to help spread the message of what Brady expects from receivers and, of course, let’s not forget in his prime he was arguably the best to ever play tight end.
If he is able to stay healthy, Gronkowski will likely be Brady’s preferred target, a thought that should keep defenders up at night.
Belichick turned a bad situation into vital draft capital
On the face of it, a fourth round pick for one of the best tight ends ever to suit up does not look like a good deal for New England.
But it’s important to remember that the Patriots had very little wiggle room in negotiating a deal given their limited cap space.
Gronkowski still had one year remaining on his contract and the Patriots owned his rights.
This means if Gronkowski come out of retirement, he would have counted for $9.25 million on New England’s salary cap.
Currently, according to Miguel Benzan, New England has just over $1.1 million in total cap space available.
So Belichick basically got a fourth-round pick for a retired player who would never have worn the Patriots uniform again.
The Patriots now have even more mid-round picks to add to their current 12-pick arsenal and you can be sure Bill Belichick knows how to use them.
New England has had some note-worthy picks in previous fourth rounds of the draft, including James White, Trey Flowers and Shaq Mason.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to win a Super Bowl
One immediate benefit to come from the Brady move was Tampa Bay’s jersey and ticket sales going through the roof.
It was easy for cynics to say this is why they signed one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time – after all, the 42-year-old is far from his prime.
But by bringing one of his top receivers into the fold, they have proved they have set their sights high.
They went 7-9 last season with a wayward QB who threw 30 interceptions and two of those games went to overtime.
It was head coach Bruce Arians’ first year and they put up the third highest points tally in the league.
Now they’ve got the most successful quarterback of all time and his most prolific target as well as a handful of other talented receivers.
The NFC South is one of the toughest in the league but, with that extra playoff spot available, both Brady and Gronkowski bring playoff experience that will prove invaluable down the stretch.
It may not happen in this first season but, if Gronkowski can stay healthy for the duration of Brady’s tenure and the Bucs gel with Brady’s system, the future could be very bright in Tampa.
Do questions need to be asked about the Patriots culture?
Patriots fans will remember Lane Johnson’s infamous dig at New England after the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl 52.
The left tackle described the Patriots as a fear-based organisation and that players did not enjoy being part of the team.
Of course, after New England claimed their sixth Super Bowl title the following year, Johnson’s comments seemed ridiculous.
Patriots players didn’t hesitate to remind Johnson that celebrating on a duck boat through Boston was a lot of fun.
But Johnson was voicing what others had hinted at before – Danny Amendola called Belichick an asshole and said there were many things he didn’t like about playing there.
Rumours of a rift between Brady and Belichick plagued the record-setting duo for years before Brady finally left.
Now Rob Gronkowski has proved it was New England that wore him down rather than football itself and questions will be asked over Belichick’s handling of the situation in the last few years.
Pats Nation has grown to respect the business-like approach Belichick practises where players often seem disposable and the “Patriots Way” has become a way of explaining the often unexplainable.
But, despite the fact his methods bring about unprecedented success, is there something to be said for player satisfaction and feeling secure and valued while part of the team?
In Bill We Trust is a mantra Pats fans shout from the roof tops in uncertain times like this and we’re sure Belichick has a plan. We can’t wait to see how Bill will end up with the last laugh here…
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