Why Rob Gronkowski's Retirement Timing Couldn't Have Been Worse for the Patriots

March 25, 2019 - 9:01 am

BOSTON (WEEI.com) -- Let's be honest about this: Rob Gronkowski didn't do the New England Patriots any favors by waiting until late March to announce his retirement.

The cash-strapped Pats could've used his $10 million in cap space on the free-agent market, where they struck out on every reported target, including Adam Humphries and Golden Tate. New England also pursued tight end Jared Cook, who reportedly signed with the New Orleans Saints because he was uncertain about Gronkowski's status.

Yes, he could have, but that's the price of doing business. For the last few years, the Patriots have not extended financial goodwill towards their star tight end. So don't count on him to act benevolently.

As Tom Curran outlines, Gronk has seemingly felt slighted ever since the Patriots picked up the final four years of his contract, which he signed in 2012. Gronkowski tweeted New England was forcing him to take a pay cut.

Then last year, Gronkowski reportedly wanted more money, and even missed voluntary OTAs. But he showed up to training camp on time, and the Patriots responded with an incentive package. Gronk didn't reach any of them.

In addition to the monetary austerity, Bill Belichick reportedly chastised Gronkowski in front of his teammates for his work with Alex Guerrero and TB12. Gronk was so sick of the environment, he was thinking about retirement as far back as training camp 2017, according to Curran.

There's no doubt Gronkowski relished his time with the Patriots, and most importantly, playing with Tom Brady. Robert Kraft and Belichick extolled Gronk in separate statements Sunday, and he will probably be celebrated at Gillette many times in the foreseeable future.

Perhaps Gronkowski could even return to the Patriots this season, as his agent Drew Rosenhaus suggests.

But for now, a beaten-down Gronk is choosing to walk away. He played every single offensive snap in the AFC championship and Super Bowl, and it looked as if this coming season would've been just as physically taxing -- unless you're counting on Matt LaCosse to break out.

The Patriots rode Gronk until he had nothing left. He doesn't owe them anything.

By Alex Reimer