In Michael Lombardi’s opinion, the drama surrounding Rob Gronkowski is rooted in dollar signs.
Lombardi, a former New England Patriots executive and longtime colleague of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, said on The Ringer’s ‘GM Street’ podcast that Gronkowski’s plan to skip all voluntary offseason workouts stems from the tight end’s desire for a new contract, not from a rift with Belichick.
“I think people are confusing this thing so dramatically,” Lombardi said. “They’re saying, ‘Well, Gronk’s mad at Belichick.’ No, this is about money. It’s about money. He wants another contract. Every year, Gronk wants another contract.”
To illustrate this point, Lombardi shared a story about Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, requesting a new contract for his client during the NFL Scouting Combine. Per Lombardi, this request came less than a year after Gronkowski had signed his previous deal — a no-no under league rules.
“There was a time at the NFL combine, Drew Rosenhaus had typed a letter, ‘(Gronkowski) wants a new contract,’ and he forgot that the rules state you have to wait 12 months before you can do a new contract,” Lombardi said. “That’s how much he’s always trying.
“And in fairness to Rosenhaus and in fairness to Gronk, it’s hard to officiate Gronk, and it’s hard to pay Gronk. Let’s face it … if we were doing a fantasy draft, we would take Gronk over (Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver) Sammy Watkins, who’s making $16 million. We would pick Gronk over most offensive players, so he’s hard to do a contract for. This is about money.”
The Patriots restructured Gronkowski’s contract last offseason, inserting incentives that bumped his potential 2017 salary from $5.25 million to $10.75 million. He proceeded to hit every benchmark, garnering first-team All-Pro honors for the fifth time in his career.
But Gronkowski’s deal, which he signed in 2012, currently includes no such sweeteners for the 2018 season. He’s set to earn $8 million in salary and can make up to $8.9 million in cash — fourth-most among tight ends behind Jimmy Graham, Trey Burton and Zach Ertz, according to Spotrac.
Gronkowski’s 2018 base salary ranks 104th in the NFL and 50th among offensive players. The Patriots star openly contemplated retirement in the wake of Super Bowl LII but seemed to indicate during a bizarre news conference Saturday that he intends to play this season.