Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suggested recently that his ex-teammate Tom Brady owes it to himself to test free agency.
Don’t do it, Rob!
That’s probably what the collective mass of New England Patriots fans are saying right about now as retired tight end/local legend Rob Gronkowski decides to join in the growing chorus of people voicing their opinions on what Tom Brady should do.
Brady is entering truly uncharted territory for a veteran player who has seen and done just about everything there is to see and do in the NFL. For the first time in two decades of professional football, the 42-year-old quarterback is set to enter unrestricted free agency.
It’s a notion that would have been incomprehensible only a season or two ago. After all, the Patriots went on one heck of a run of late, advancing to four Super Bowls and winning three after a drought that spanned almost 10 years between titles.
But there were cracks in the veneer even during the 2018 season (which ended in the Patriots’ sixth Lombardi Trophy). Brady didn’t seem quite as on top of his craft during the regular season or in the playoffs as he had just the season before (when he won league MVP). And then this past season, his play further slipped behind a lackluster offensive line and a lack of receiving threats.
The Patriots stumbled their way to appearing in their first Wild Card game in a decade, and there, they promptly lost to the No. 6 seed Tennessee Titans… at home.
Now Brady is set to turn 43 before his 21st season begins. He’s bound and determined to keep playing in the NFL – he’s repeatedly said that he has no plans to retire until he’s at least 45 – but the question now becomes which team he’ll be playing for.
The most likely outcome is still that Brady remains the starting QB for the only team he’s ever known, but at least one prominent figure from the NFL community thinks he should test out the waters of free agency – and the identity of that person might surprise you just a bit.
It’s Brady’s own close friend and former teammate Rob Gronkowski.
“I truly believe that he deserves the opportunity to go explore, to see what’s out there,” Gronkowski said in a video shared online by NESN’s Doug Kyed, courtesy of CBS Boston. “I mean, he’s been playing for so long, and just the way that he’s been playing, just the level he’s been playing at, he definitely deserves an opportunity to go out there and test the market.”
While Patriots fans probably won’t appreciate Gronk’s advice to Brady, it’s hard to argue with the logic behind it.
Brady has made a career out of taking hometown discounts in his contract negotiations with New England. It made sense for him to do so when all he wanted to do was win, but now that he has six rings and he’s presumably closer to retirement, perhaps Brady’s motivations have become a bit more fiscally-motivated.
Gronk wasn’t done with sharing his opinions, however:
"“I mean, why wouldn’t you (explore free agency)? I mean, you’ve never done it before in your career, and he’s going to be a free agent for the first time ever. So good for him — go test out the market and then do what’s best for himself. That’s the decision that he has to make, is what’s best for himself, best for his family, what he feels like he’s going to love.”"
The decision, of course, doesn’t lie solely with Brady. You could make a fairly compelling argument that most of the power and the decision-making onus lies with the Patriots right now – specifically, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft. Those two titans must decide whether or not they want to ink Brady to a new contract before free agency even begins.