Alex Guerrero

Patriots Notes: Gronk, McDaniels, Guerrero

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link) passes along a couple of interesting items this morning regarding several key faces in the Patriots’ locker room. While we knew that New England had indeed attempted to trade star tight end Rob Gronkowski this offseason, Rapoport says that those trade talks were “intense” and that the Pats were actually close to dealing Gronk at one point. However, Rapoport reports that Gronkowski then stepped in and adamantly informed the front office that he would either retire or remain with the Patriots, but that he would not go anywhere else. At that point, Rapoport says, trade talks were scrapped and, as we know, the team sweetened Gronk’s contract late last month.

Let’s take a look at a few more notes out of Foxborough as the Pats get set to kick off the 2018 campaign:

  • In response to Rapoport’s discussion about Gronkowski this morning, Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston revisited a report of his own (video link) in which he indicated that the Patriots did talk with several clubs about a Gronkowski trade. However, Curran says interest in Gronk was more tepid than one might think — in contrast to Rapoport’s report that the Pats almost had a deal in place — and that Tom Brady informed the team that he would not play if his top tight end was dealt.
  • In the same report linked above, Rapoport says that one reason OC Josh McDaniels left the Colts at the altar this offseason is because the Patriots gave him a five-year contract — which is largely unheard of for a coordinator — and that the contract pays McDaniels like a first-time head coach. In fact, Rapoport says that McDaniels is by far the highest-paid coordinator in the league, and his contract will eventually pay him over $4MM per year.
  • The role of Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, has been one of the sources of conflict between Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, as we explained earlier this year. However, Rapoport reports that a compromise on Guerrero’s role has been reached. Under the terms of the compromise, Brady and Gronkowski may use Guerrero’s services when they so choose, and Guerrero has “solid” access to Gillette Stadium. Guerrero may also travel with the team, though Rapoport says he is unlikely to travel as much as he did in the past. The most important thing for all sides is that they do not publicly discuss the Guerrero issue in the future, and Rapoport no longer expects the trainer’s role to be a major storyline.
  • The Bills claimed punter Corey Bojorquez  off waivers from the Patriots last week even though Bojorquez never punted in a preseason game. Bojorquez’s lack of game usage was somewhat surprising given that he was seen as a legitimate threat to unseat incumbent punter Ryan Allen, but Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says the team may have been trying to “hide” Bojorquez so that he could clear waivers and return to the Pats’ practice squad, which Bojorquez himself appeared to confirm.
  • Reiss also passes along a couple of notes on the Patriots’ two newest practice squad players, WR Jace Billingsley and T Eric Smith. Reiss says that the team had interest in signing Billingsley to the practice squad last year — he ultimately chose to remain in Detroit on the Lions’ taxi squad — and that the Pats are paying Smith $20K per week (instead of the standard $7,600) because they coveted tackle depth and needed to give him a compelling reason to come to Foxborough.

 

Rob Gronkowski Angling For New Contract?

Still not committed to playing in 2018, Rob Gronkowski will not be in attendance Monday when the Patriots begin their offseason program. But the All-Pro tight end’s been working out independently, and some of his reported dissatisfaction with Bill Belichick may again be contract-related.

Gronkowski wants a raise from his current contract, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports, adding that it appears to be an open secret the superstar pass-catcher is upset. Gronk signed his current contract way back in 2012; that deal that still has two years remaining on it.

Belichick’s issues with trainer Alex Guerrero also factor into this, with Volin writing that Gronkowski is “openly feuding” with the New England head coach about his relationship with Guerrero. Gronk has taken Tom Brady‘s side when it comes to Guerrero, per Volin, crediting the trainer’s methods with helping him stay healthy last season — which came after a back injury cut his 2016 slate short.

Gronk will turn 29 next month and must attend 90 percent of the Patriots’ offseason workouts to collect a $250K bonus, per Joel Corry of CBS Sports (on Twitter). That works out to a maximum of three absences, and Volin notes Gronkowski appears fine with forgoing that six-figure check. The Pats can only dock Gronk $84K if he misses their June minicamp.

Set for a base salary of $8MM this year, Gronkowski has seen another wave of pass-catchers cash in for far more than what he’s making. Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson play a more valued position, but their accomplishments and per-year salaries ($16MM and $14MM, respectively) look strange when compared directly with Gronkowski’s. He stands to earn $9MM in base salary in 2019. While that’s not entirely out of step with tight ends, career backup Trey Burton just signed for $8MM AAV. And Gronk could make an argument he’s not only the best tight end in the game, but with four first-team All-Pro distinctions (only one other Patriot, John Hannah, has more), is on his own tier at this position presently and deserves to earn significantly more than his peers. Of course, his injury history affects this situation as well.

Gronkowski’s grumbling about his deal last year prompted the Patriots to add an incentive package to it, and by virtue of that All-Pro honor, he maxed out those incentives. It may take more than that to get Gronkowski back to the facility this time around.

Patriots Notes: Brady, Belichick, Guerrero

It’s no secret that there is some tension among the three most prominent figures in the Patriots’ organization: owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, one of the sources of conflict between Belichick and Brady is the role of Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero.

Belichick, of course, wants one voice when it comes to his team’s strength and conditioning program, so he wants his players to adhere to programs established by head strength coach, Moses Cabrera, and head trainer, Jim Whalen. But by the middle of last season, approximately 30 of the Patriots’ 53 players were seeing Guerrero regularly, either in Gillette Stadium or at the TB12 facility at Patriot Place. Guerrero’s methods clash with the more traditional approaches set forth by Cabrera and Whalen, and Belichick revoked Guerrero’s special privileges after the bye week last season (although he did not ban players from seeing Guerrero).

We heard back in January that Guerrero’s presence was creating some problems in New England’s locker room, and Volin’s story provides some interesting context to those reports.

Now for more news out of Foxborough:

  • Kraft is not concerned about extending Brady’s contract, and Volin notes that there is no reason for the team to do so at this point. Brady is under club control through the 2019 campaign, and his cap number of $22MM is reasonable given his ability, importance to the franchise, and the quarterback market.
  • For the second consecutive year, Brady is unlikely to be present for the first day of the Patriots’ offseason program, per Volin, which is somewhat curious given that he has been a “devout offseason participant” in prior years. But as Brady’s absence is tied to his appearance as a Best Buddies Global Ambassador in Qatar, Volin is not putting much stock in it until Brady starts to miss more time. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Belichick “went out of his way” to hint that he and Brady have at least one talk in that regard. Belichick said, “[The offseason program] will be heavily attended, but I know there are a couple players that I’ve talked to that have other commitments, but that’s the way it always is. So, not really anything new there.”
  • Volin says the Pats do have the ammunition to move up in the draft to select one of this year’s top signal-callers if they want to, though it remains more likely that they will stand pat.
  • In the same piece linked above, Reiss reports that the Patriots have hired Cameron Achord as an assistant coach. Achord has ties to special teams coach Joe Judge, and he has already been on the scouting trail on behalf of the Patriots.
  • It was previously reported that Brady was a big reason for Jordan Matthews‘ decision to sign with the Patriots, but as Reiss notes, Matthews was impressed with the organization as a whole. Matthews said, “There was a lot of intentionality during the visit. They were very detailed. They were very specific with me on what they thought about me and areas they thought I could grow. I appreciated that more than anything. I appreciated that type of honesty.”
  • We learned yesterday that the Patriots did not come close to matching the two-year, $12MM deal that Danny Amendola signed with the Dolphins, which made Amendola’s decision to leave New England a little easier.