Rob Gronkowski stepping away from football sent shockwaves through the NFL. While it wasn’t totally unexpected, it came suddenly and has left a massive hole in the Patriots’ offense. Gronkowski’s retirement will have implications well beyond what happens in New England, and reactions and additional tidbits about the retirement began pouring in soon after he made the announcement on his Instagram. We’ve compiled the best of those below:
- Gronkowski called Patriots owner Robert Kraft to let him know of his decision earlier today, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Reiss writes that Kraft “found out not long before” Gronkowski made the social media post announcing the news himself. It sounds like New England didn’t have much advance notice, and as such not too much time to prepare for the news.
- Gronk’s decision will give the Patriots some additional cap flexibility. The retirement will save the team around $9.5MM in cap space for this season, notes Ben Volin of The Boston Globe (Twitter link). New England also recently restructured the contract of cornerback Stephon Gilmore, so they have a decent amount of money to work with.
- The Patriots reportedly “aggressively courted” tight end Jared Cook before he decided to head to New Orleans, but New England shouldn’t give up on signing Cook, writes Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com. Gantt points out that Cook still hasn’t officially signed with the Saints, and that the Patriots recently attempted to steal away Adam Humphries at the 11th hour after he had agreed to sign with the Titans. Cook reportedly chose the Saints because of the uncertainty surrounding Gronkowski, so it’s reasonable to think he could reconsider with Gronk now out of the picture.
- With not many big name tight ends left available in free agency, the Patriots could turn to the draft to replace Gronkowski. The Patriots “immediately become a favorite for Noah Fant or Irv Smith if they’re available” when the Patriots pick at number 32 in the draft, according to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Fant is the tight end from Iowa while Smith is from Alabama, and both could go toward the end of the first round. Miller writes he could also see the Pats taking Dawson Knox from Ole Miss in the second round.
- Kraft and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick both released statements on Gronkowski’s retirement, which you can view here courtesy of this tweet from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Both men gushed over Gronkowski, and declared him one of the best tight ends to ever play.