New England Patriots Summer Six-Pack

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: The New England Patriots logo is seen on a video board during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: The New England Patriots logo is seen on a video board during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT /
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New England Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, MA – JANUARY 13: Rob Gronkowski /

Rob Gronkowski:

It was an odd offseason for the New England Patriots and their star tight end Rob Gronkowski.

From his retirement talk immediately after the Super Bowl loss to the Eagles to his obtuse social media posts to his bizarre press conference in Foxboro to his announcement he was returning and all was rosy to his staying away from non-mandatory offseason workouts, it was a roller coaster ride all offseason.

As arguably the best tight end in NFL history (sorry Kellen Winslow and Tony Gonzalez) Gronkowski is grossly underpaid. He signed a six-year extension in 2012 that had just $18 million in guarantees. The Patriots had to add $5.5 million in incentives (which Gronkowski met) last season to get his cash payout in the neighborhood of the top contracts for tight ends.

Heading into 2018, there are 17 tight ends with more average guaranteed money per year on their current contracts. While Gronkowski is in line to make $9 million in 2018, he is still being paid less than Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen and Trey Burton (seriously, Burton and his 63 career receptions for 628 yards and six touchdowns is being paid more than Gronkowski). He is in the same pay neighborhood with Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and Cameron Brate.

Unfortunately for Gronkowski, he is under contract for $9 million in 2018 and just $8 million in 2019. After those two years, the Patriots have the option of tagging him in 2020 for a number that will likely be around $10-11 million. They can keep him in 2021 for 120 percent of the previous year and a third year in 2022 for 144 percent of the 2021 value. Think of Washington with Kirk Cousins the past few years and then realize that tight end is lowest franchise tag value on offense.

Gronkowski is basically under team control at a reasonable rate for the next five years if the Patriots choose to play hard ball. The best bet is to work out a deal with the guaranteed money that will keep Gronkowski happy without having to go through a squabble over the next few years. Tear up that old deal and give him a deal that dwarfs the other tight end and pays Gronkowski market value for the offensive weapon he is on the field.

New England should offer Gronkowski a four-year $70 million contract with $50 million or so guaranteed. Even that is less than Gronkowski deserves (he is a weapon on offense on par with Julio Jones–who wants a new contract–and Antonio Brown). With Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, Mike Evans, and Davante Adams all making over $14 million per year on average, it is ridiculous–regardless of position played–that these players make more than Gronkowski.

Better yet, think of these wide receivers making more than Gronkowski over the next two seasons: Demaryius Thomas, Allen Robinson, T.Y. Hilton, Alshon Jeffery, Doug Baldwin, Keenan Allen, DeSean Jackson, Emmanuel Sanders, Larry Fitzgerald, Randall Cobb, Donte Moncrief and Pierre Garcon. Ask yourself who which of these receivers any rational human being would state are more valuable to a team than Rob Gronkowski?

Pay the man.