Rob Gronkowski is still operating on a contract he signed in 2012, slightly before he placed his name among the all-time tight end greats, but is committed to returning for a ninth season regardless. Reports of Patriots negotiations with Gronkowski on a revised 2018 deal emerged months ago, but nothing’s been resolved. That’s led some other executives around the conference to believe the Patriots are still motivated to trade their superstar pass-catcher.
“Where’s the restructure of his contract?” one AFC personnel executive said, via Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal (via NESN.com). “Until that’s done, I think he’s still available. I wouldn’t be surprised if (Bill) Belichick is going to test Gronk’s buy-in with the contract.”
The Pats are believed to have shopped Gronk to the Texans, Titans, Lions and 49ers. The 29-year-old All-Pro remains on New England’s roster but without the kind of pay-bump possibility 2017’s incentive package brought. Three of the five execs Bedard spoke with believe the Pats and Gronkowski will reach an agreement to redo his deal, but the fact that it hasn’t happened yet opens the door to rumblings of a trade — one that wouldn’t be out of character for Belichick. Two other AFC execs expect a harder fight from the Patriots, given that Gronk hinted at retirement and skipped OTAs.
Here’s the latest on some other AFC standouts:
- On the topic of impasses for All-Pros, Le’Veon Bell remains focused on a deal that represents a combination of his abilities on the ground and through the air — a demand that could be up to $17MM AAV. Although the Steelers‘ talks with their star running back resumed, they are still unlikely to produce a long-term deal, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Fittipaldo is the latest to confirm Bell turned down a contract proposal that would have ensured he made $30MM in 2017 and ’18, adding it was a five-year offer. Bell’s entrance to the league as a 2013 second-round pick, and a player who has earned less than 2016 first-rounder Ezekiel Elliott (since Bell has yet to sign his $14.5MM 2018 tender, this is still accurate), is helping drive Bell to take this hardline stance, per Fittipaldo.
- While this isn’t exactly full confirmation, signs point to Andrew Luck participating in a passing summit with some of his pass-catchers at his alma mater. Colts wide receiver Chester Rogers tweeted he’s off to Stanford, where Luck spends time training during the offseason. Mike Chappell of Fox 59 assumes Luck will be throwing Rogers and others as he continues the final stages of his exhaustive rehab program. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t qualify as particularly newsworthy. But considering Luck’s progress in June, every throw the passer makes will be relevant as he prepares to surmount what’s been a significant hurdle to return to the field.
- Chris Harris has some interesting incentives in his contract, one the Broncos adjusted this year. The standout cornerback’s been attached to an incredibly team-friendly deal the past four years, and the Broncos added $3MM in incentives. Some of those escalators can only be triggered by team success, with the six-, eight- and 10-win benchmarks representing possible six-figure bumps for the 29-year-old corner. Harris preferred that being part of his contract. “Last year was unacceptable as a team,” Harris said, via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (subscription required) in an expansive piece on Denver’s DBs. “This year I’m putting that in my contract to make sure these guys are on the same page as me, how I think on the field and prepare them for games.”
- Jhabvala adds that Denver’s Su’a Cravens addition could threaten Will Parks‘ role more than anyone else’s. The third-year defender serves as a backup safety and occasional dime linebacker, and Cravens looks set to make a strong push to assume that role for a team that gave up a fifth-round pick to get him. The Broncos were said to view Cravens strictly as a safety, but the former second-round pick played a hybrid role with the Redskins in 2016.