The peak rush of free agency is over, and the 2018 NFL draft is still weeks away. Normally, this is a quiet point of the NFL off-season. However, one question still remains for the New England Patriots. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has still not confirmed whether he will return for 2018, and some are calling for the trade of the big tight end. Quite frankly, that would be an incredibly poor decision. While the Patriots offense would survive without him, there’s no question that New England is better with Gronkowski on the field. Trading Rob Gronkowski is a terrible idea, and the Patriots should avoid it at all costs.
Trading Rob Gronkowski Is the Wrong Move
He’s Rob Gronkowski
There is arguably no bigger non-quarterback weapon in the NFL than Rob Gronkowski. He’s truly capable of doing it all, and excels at everything a tight end is required to do. Gronkowski finished his 2017 season with 69 receptions for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns. He was easily the biggest threat in the passing game, and it’s hard to imagine what New England’s passing game would have looked like without him.
Additionally, he’s one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, if not the best. He possesses the size and strength to slow down defensive ends, and isn’t that much less of a blocker than a league-average tackle. In a season where LaAdrian Waddle is scheduled to be the starting left tackle, Gronkowski’s blocking services have never been more important.
Quite frankly, he’s the best tight end in football. He’s won All-Pro honors in all but one season in which he’s played 14 or more games. There isn’t a tight end that comes close to doing what he can, and getting rid of a generational talent would be an incredibly stupid move to make.
There’s no Clear Replacement
Some will point to the success of the 2016 season to justify letting Gronkowski go. Gronkowski and Brady only played and finished five games together, yet the Patriots went on the win a Super Bowl. However, people that say this are ignoring a few obvious facts that went into that magical 2016 season.
For one, the 2016 Patriots had a backup plan when Gronkowski got injured. Tight end Martellus Bennett became the de facto number one tight end, and adequately filled Gronkowski’s shoes. He’s not as good as Gronk by any means, but he was still a top-15 tight end that could catch and block.
Thanks to Bennett’s presence, New England didn’t need to re-create their offense, and the team went on to win the Super Bowl. The offense wasn’t as good as it was with Gronkowski on the field, but it was still a top-five unit. The 2018 Patriots don’t have that backup plan. Dwayne Allen is a fine blocker, but he’s not a threat in the receiving game. The only other option is drafting a tight end, and trusting a rookie to play that big a role is a dangerous proposition.
His Trade Value Doesn’t Reflect his Team Value
While the Patriots have a clear need for Gronkowski, the other 31 teams should be wary with Gronkowski. The big tight end has an extensive injury history, and he’s openly contemplating retirement at age 28. As a team trading for him, you don’t know how many years he has in the tank. He’s still a transcendent talent, but chances are no team would offer up more than a third-round pick.
The Patriots won’t find a player anywhere close to Gronkowski’s caliber in the third round. At best, they’ll get an above-average starter, and Gronkowski is a superstar. Why run the risk of sending him somewhere else and possibly having to play against him when the only benefit is a third-round pick? He’s worth far more to New England than a mid-round talent, and trading him would actively make the team worse.
Gronkowski has never said that he’d play for another team if traded. This seems to be him genuinely deciding whether he still wants to deal with the grueling grind of another season. If he wants a pay raise, give it to him. He’s certainly earned it. However, don’t just trade him away because his status is uncertain. He’s a once in a lifetime talent, and he has more value on the Patriots than any other team is willing to give up.
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