Rob Gronkowski

AFC East Notes: Bills, Gronkowski, Dolphins

It looks like Bills tight end Tyler Kroft isn’t going to be ready for the start of the regular season. Buffalo signed Kroft to a three-year, $18.75MM deal back in March, and he was supposed to be their starter. He then broke his foot during OTAs, and the initial timelines had him coming back sometime right around the start of the regular season. He apparently isn’t too close to returning, as he hasn’t done any on-field work yet, according to Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic (Twitter link). Buscaglia adds that it’s “looking more and more likely” that Kroft opens the year on the PUP list.

If he does start the season on PUP, Kroft will have to miss at least Buffalo’s first six games. That’s not welcome news for the Bills, as they don’t have a ton of experience at the position. Kroft showed some potential during his four years with the Bengals, but an injury to the same foot limited him to just five games last season. In 2017, he had 42 catches for 404 yards and seven touchdowns. Kroft’s injury may end up opening up opportunities for rookie Dawson Knox, who the Bills drafted in the third round back in April. Buffalo also has veteran Lee Smith on the roster, although he’s always been a blocker and has barely ever contributed as a receiver.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Speaking of Bills rookies, running back Devin Singletary seems to be developing nicely. After a visit to Bills camp and speaking with members of the organization, Albert Breer of SI.com writes that Singletary has “picked up enough to be a three-down back right away” (Twitter link). The Bills drafted Singletary, a Florida Atlantic product, 74th overall. The only thing standing in his way now is that the Bills have a crowded backfield, with Frank Gore, LeSean McCoy, and T.J. Yeldon also in tow. To that end, Breer writes that he expects Buffalo “to get trade calls” on their running backs. Over his last two seasons at FAU, Singletary rushed for 3,266 yards and a whopping 54 touchdowns.
  • There’s nothing former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski can do to convince people he’s really retired. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes about his retirement, “few people are taking it seriously.” Volin has a new piece where a handful of former players and coaches all offer their view that Gronk might not really be done after all. The legendary tight end has insisted he’s enjoying his time away from the game, but Volin writes that “few people believe that Gronk won’t at least strongly consider coming out of retirement this fall.” It’s hard to speculate one way or the other, but he still is only 30. It’s impossible to predict, but it certainly wouldn’t be shocking if he comes back for one more ride.
  • When the Dolphins drafted Minkah Fitzpatrick 11th overall last year, they knew he wasn’t going to have one set position. He’s been moved around a good amount, and Fitzpatrick might be a little frustrated with how the new coaching staff has been using him. Fitzpatrick’s mom recently took to Twitter to respond to a beat writer’s tweet that he was playing poorly, arguing the coaches shouldn’t be playing him at strong safety, according to Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald. Asked about it after practice, Fitzpatrick said “she’s being honest and saying how she feels. There’s nothing wrong with it. I wish she would have addressed me first and talked to me first before it happens, but it is what it is. She feels very strongly.” He then also indicated he more or less agrees with her assessment, saying “she’s not wrong.” Per Beasley, the Dolphins plan to use Fitzpatrick “all over the field” in 2019.

AFC East Rumors: Gronk, McCoy, Fins, Jets

The AFC East’s teams will report to training camp this week. Here is the latest surrounding the Patriots and their perennial challengers:

  • The Rob Gronkowski comeback talk has escalated considerably, with Gronkowski doing the speculating and predicting how restless he will be when Patriots camp and games begin. It won’t be Gronk’s relationship with Bill Belichick that stands in the way, Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston notes. After 2017 featured tension between Gronkowski and Belichick, Curran adds that the two “greatly” improved their relationship last season. This came despite the Patriots at one point planning to trade Gronk to the Lions last year. This improved relationship could point to Belichick signing off on a Gronk mid- or late-season return. The Patriots’ shaky tight end depth chart would seemingly have the defending champions eager to have the 30-year-old back in uniform.
  • One of Gronkowski’s former sidekicks in New England, Dwayne Allen will not begin camp on time with his new team. The Dolphins placed the veteran tight end on their active/PUP list on Sunday. Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and linebacker/special-teamer Mike Hull joined Allen in receiving this designation before Miami’s camp. Tankersley tore an ACL in November, so this additional delay was not unexpected. He started 11 games at corner as a rookie but played in only six, as a reserve, last season.
  • Might third-round rookie Devin Singletary‘s performance put a potential Hall of Famer on the outs in Buffalo? LeSean McCoy is entering the final season of a five-year, $40MM Bills contract, and his cap savings ($6MM-plus) would benefit the Bills more than releases of Frank Gore or T.J. Yeldon. This led an NFL scouting director to call the McCoy situation one to monitor, per Albert Breer of SI.com. On a limited Bills offense last season, McCoy averaged a career-low 36.7 yards per game. His 3.2 yards per carry were nearly a yard shy of his previous-worst figure. The idea of a McCoy trade has surfaced this offseason, too.
  • Despite Leonard Williams being one of Mike Maccagnan‘s highest-profile investments, the New York Post’s Brian Costello predicts, barring unrealistic contract demands, Williams will end up staying on a long-term deal. The defensive end’s positive off-field reputation and standing within the locker room supports the notion the new regime, in Costello’s view, regarding him as a cornerstone player going forward. Speculation in league circles emerged that Adam Gase wanted to move on from Williams, but nothing has developed on that front in weeks. Williams, 25, is set for a fifth-year option season at $14.2MM.

AFC East Notes: Pats, Gronk, Jets, Anderson

Will Rob Gronkowski come out of retirement to rejoin the Patriots? There’s a “40% chance” of that happening, a source close to the tight end tells Mike Florio of PFT.

Much has been made about Gronkowski’s apparent weight loss, but the tight end claims that he’s lost only 18 pounds since the Super Bowl. Assuming that only a fraction of that weight is muscle mass, it might not be hard for Gronk to get back into football shape, should he decide to retake the gridiron.

Florio speculates that a direct appeal from Tom Brady to Gronkowski could convince the veteran to give it one more go. Furthermore, while coach Bill Belichick isn’t crazy about players cherry picking their activity participation, he believes that Belichick has taken a softened stance and would not stand in the way of Gronkowski rejoining the team later this year.

While we wait to see what happens with everyone’s favorite party animal, here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson can cash in with a huge 2019 season, Brian Costello of the New York Post writes. Anderson had 50 catches for 752 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games last year. More importantly, he averaged 15 yards per catch and showed that he is one of the best deep threats in the league. New coach Adam Gase has already said that he wants to better utilize Anderson’s blazing speed, so he could set himself up for a sizable payday in 2020.
  • This week, the Jets added to their analytics department with the hire of Matt Sheldon as their new director of football research and strategy (Twitter link via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com). Sheldon held the same title under Adam Gase with the Dolphins in ’17 and ’18. It’s a sign that the Jets are putting greater emphasis on advanced stats and also another sign of Gase’s serious influence in the organization.

Extra Points: 2020 NFL Draft, Gronk, T-Rich

The wide receiver crop in the 2019 NFL draft left much to be desired, but it’s a different story in 2020, as Kalyn Kahler of The MMQB writes. This year, there was not a receiver chosen until No. 25 overall when the Ravens took Marquise Brown. This year, there are several players with high-end potential.

On the surface it looks as though there are much better route runners with legit gas in this class,” one scout told Kahler. “Not just big jump-ball guys. There could be several Calvin Ridley-types, which could play multiple roles in offenses, increasing their value.”

Among 2020’s top WRs is Alabama junior Jerry Jeudy, who boasts impressive route running despite being undersized at 6’1″ and 192 pounds. Last year, Jeudy reeled in 14 touchdowns and dropped just four of his 72 catchable balls.

Others to watch: Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr., TCU’s Jalen Reagor, Oklahoma’s Ceedee Lamb, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, and Clemson’s Tee Higgins.

As you gear up way, way too early for the 2020 NFL Draft, here’s more from around the league:

  • The NFL and the NFLPA are set to meet on Monday-Wednesday to discuss a new CBA and Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears that the players are interested in creating shorter rookie deals for incoming players. Currently, draft picks are signed to four-year contracts, with teams holding fifth-year options for first-round picks. With shorter rookie deals, players would be able to reach free agency at an earlier date and earn market-value deals sooner.
  • Take this with a grain of driveway salt, but as Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports writes, a recent interaction captured between former Patriots star Rob Gronkowski and Drew Brees has conspiracy theorists (and amateur lip readers) buzzing. Gronk, some say, told the Saints quarterback that he is “coming back [to football].” For now, we’re assuming that the tight end is staying retired, especially since he has slimmed down considerably since the Super Bowl.
  • Running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Connor Cook are participating in the XFL’s “Summer Showcase” in St. Louis on Saturday, as Michael David Smith of PFT writes. T-Rich, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, is apparently still focused on getting back to the NFL. Last year, he led the AAF with 12 touchdowns before the league went belly-up. Cook, meanwhile, was never able to do much in the NFL despite some buzz heading into the 2016 draft.
  • CAA, one of the most powerful agencies in the NFL, is driving a hard bargain for rookies, Mike Florio of PFT writes. This year, four of the five remaining unsigned first-round picks are repped by CAA. And, last July, five of seven unsigned players in the top 10 were repped by CAA. As of this writing, the following first-rounders are unsigned: 49ers defensive end Joey Bosa (No. 2; represented by CAA), Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (No. 3; represented by Nicole Lynn of Young Money APAA Sports), Bucs linebacker Devin White (No. 5; CAA), Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (No. 6; CAA), and Panthers linebacker Brian Burns (No. 16; CAA).

Extra Points: Bernard, Gronk, Cardinals

Giovani Bernard was consistently one of the Bengals‘ most versatile offensive weapons during Marvin Lewis‘ tenure with the organization, but new head coach Zac Taylor is seemingly taking that to a whole new level. According to Michael LaPlaca of Bengals.com, Bernard was used in a variety of different ways during OTAs, including reps at wide receiver.

“I’ve always been the type of guy when my opportunity arises is to go out and play, play hard, play for your team,” Bernard said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. We have to play for each other. It’s not about the stats, it’s not about how many plays I get. I just want to go out there when my number is called and make the play.”

The 27-year-old was limited to only 12 games in 2018, compiling 211 rushing yards and three scores on 56 carries. He also added another 35 receptions for 218 yards.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Those hoping for a Rob Gronkowski return probably won’t be thrilled with the former tight end’s physique. As Henry McKenna of USA Today observed, Gronk showed up to the premier of Patriots teammate Julian Edelman‘s documentary looking skinnier than every before. While the six-foot-seven touchdown machine is still plenty tall, he’s clearly slimmed down, and there’s little chance he’d be in any kind of condition to play in the NFL. Gronk already denied talks of a comeback earlier this month.
  • The Cardinals offense under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury continues to be a mystery, although rookie quarterback Kyler Murray referred to the scheme as “explosive.” ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss tried to predict what’s in store in Arizona, opining that the offense will use the shotgun, will be fast, and will spread the field, all while being balanced. Weinfuss also notes that running back David Johnson is expected to play a major role.
  • A fifth player has seemingly declared for the NFL Supplemental Draft, University of St. Francis (IL) defensive back Bryant Perry will be working out for teams next week.

Rob Gronkowski Shoots Down Comeback Talk

Rob Gronkowski‘s decision to retire has been met with more skepticism than perhaps any retirement announcement ever. Since the day he announced his intent to walk away from the game, rumors have swirled that he won’t stay away for long.

It’s been heavily speculated that he’ll end up missing the first part of the season and then come back for the stretch run with the Patriots. Even Gronk’s own agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has suggested that he’ll come back. The only one who hasn’t contributed to any of the talk has been the legendary tight end himself. Speaking at a recent charity event, Gronkowski shot down any talk of a return, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

When a reporter asked Gronk if he wanted all the comeback rumors to be put to rest, he replied “you can put them to rest, yes.” “I’m feeling good. Good place,” he added. Gronkowski did acknowledge that even his own denials probably won’t end the speculation, joking that “whatever I say, it doesn’t matter.”

Gronkowski has been moved to the reserve/retired list by the Patriots, and if he wants to come back he won’t be able to just wait until the very end of the season or the playoffs. If he isn’t moved off the list by Week 13, he won’t be eligible to return for the 2019 season. While he sure seems to be enjoying retirement, it still won’t be at all surprising if he changes his mind. If New England’s offense struggles without him, it could provide extra motivation for a return.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Cowboys, Gregory, Pats, Gronk

This week, the Cowboys surprised many when they signed Randy Gregory to an extension. The immensely talented edge rusher is serving the fourth substance abuse suspension of his career, one that has him indefinitely banned. Still, the Cowboys gave him a new contract to take him through the 2020 season.

The Cowboys believe that Gregory can be an impact player once again, and coach Jason Garrett says the organization appreciates the seriousness of what he is dealing with.

Again, without going into the details of all the things he’s done to try to get to the point where he can play for us, it’s been a very serious approach as an organization and his approach has been serious,” Garrett said. “He’s been able to make strides. He was able to come back and play for us and be a very productive player and a productive guy in our locker room but unfortunately, my understanding of all of this is sometimes relapse is part of rehab, so we’re working through the process of suspension right now with the NFL, but Randy Gregory is working very hard trying to get back, trying to get the situation under control and we’re doing everything we can under the rules to help him do that.”

The Cowboys are hopeful that Gregory’s ban will be lifted sometime in 2019, but if it’s not, they plan to have him on the field in 2020.

Here’s more from the East divisions:

  • Redskins left tackle Trent Williams should be ready for training camp after having a growth or tumor on his head removed (via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). For a while, teammates were under the impression that the potentially malignant growth could keep Williams out for the season. Fortunately, that’s not the case, and Williams should be OK moving forward. The veteran has dealt with multiple health issues over the last few seasons – he’s missed time with thumb, knee, and rib injuries. In 2017, he managed to play through a torn patellar tendon and pushed off surgery until the offseason.
  • A reminder from ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss – If Rob Gronkowski isn’t moved off the reserve/retired list by Week 13, he can’t return at all. There has been speculation that the tight end could make a mid-season return to the Patriots, though Gronk insists that he’s done with football.

Rob Gronkowski Open To Patriots Return?

TUESDAY, 6:53pm: The Patriots placed Gronkowski on the reserve/retired list. They will hold the future Hall of Famer’s rights if he decides to backtrack on this decision.

MONDAY, 1:01pm: Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, appeared on NFL Network and said the retirement caught him by surprise (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network). “I was shocked. I thought Rob was going to come back and play,” he said. Rapoport writes that “his speculation, gut feeling, is that Gronk comes back at some point. But Rob told Rosenhaus he is ‘done, done, done.'”

MONDAY, 11:00am: Rob Gronkowski has retired from the NFL, but he might be willing to come back under the right circumstances. In an interview on ESPN, agent Drew Rosenhaus seemingly left the door open to Gronk suiting up for the Pats once again. 

[RELATED: Gronk Announces Retirement]

If the team was struggling or they needed him at some point next year, and let’s just say hypothetically Tom Brady gave him a call and said ‘Rob, I need you.’ I wouldn’t be shocked if he came back to play a few games,” Rosenhaus said (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter).

Gronkowski has flirted with retirement in the past before changing course and suiting up for the NFL’s greatest dynasty. In the past, it appeared that Gronk had reservations about his health, motivation, and contract. Perhaps with some extra time to rest up – and a more lucrative offer from the Patriots – the tight end could consider a mid-season return.

For the Patriots, a mid-season addition of Gronkowski could be a game changer. After losing both Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen in free agency, the Patriots are short on answers at tight end with little in the way of remaining free agent options to fill the void.

Gronk didn’t look like his old self in 2018, but he’s one of the best to ever play the tight end position and is a force to be reckoned with when healthy. To date, Gronkowski has registered 521 receptions, 7,861 yards, and 79 touchdowns over the course of his legendary career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Reactions To Rob Gronkowski’s Retirement

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.

Rob Gronkowski Announces Retirement

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has announced his retirement via his Instagram page. Gronkowski released a lengthy statement in the caption to the post, saying in part:

It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010. My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine.”

Gronkowski has flirted with retirement in the past, but it felt especially sincere this time around, and the recent increased chatter about retirement turned out to be accurate. The surefire future Hall of Fame member was reportedly nearly traded to the Lions last offseason, but threatened to retire in order to block it. We heard earlier this morning that the Patriots “aggressively courted” Jared Cook before he decided to sign with the Saints, which in hindsight might’ve foreshadowed this move.

Gronkowski entered the league as a second round pick out of Arizona back in 2010. He immediately became a star, and was a generational talent at the tight end position. But he was done in by injuries the past handful of seasons, with recurrent back injuries and other ailments. If this really is it, he’ll be retiring at the age of 29. Gronkowski is hanging up his cleats as a three-time Super Bowl champion and a four-time first-team All-Pro.

Gronk had some big moments this past season, but overall didn’t look like his old self. He appeared in 13 games, catching 47 passes for 682 yards and three touchdowns. For his career, he’ll finish with 521 receptions, 7,861 yards, and 79 touchdowns. He wasn’t just a pass-catcher, as the Patriots’ running game always ran through his blocking. He’ll go down as one of, if not the, best tight ends of all time. Gronkowski has numerous off-field interests, and has signaled an interest in going into acting in the past.

The Patriots signed former Broncos tight end Matt LaCaosse earlier this month, but are almost certainly not done adding to the position. They’re armed with 12 draft picks, and should be a good bet to take a tight end early next month.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.