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.