I’m sure you saw the news this week. The Lions tried to do themselves a little superstar shopping in the offseason. According to Albert Breer, the Detroit Lions were one of the teams that was calling the Patriots with interest in tight end Rob Gronkowski. This, of course, got everyone to thinking, “What would life be like if Gronk were a Lion?”
This got me to thinking, too. Look, I fully believe that this will never happen. I’ll say that up front with no second thoughts about it. There just isn’t a world where this goes down. But I still have thoughts, and I don’t think my thoughts on the matter are going to be too popular, but I’ll just go ahead a shoot, and we’ll see what everyone thinks.
What I think people think having Gronk will be like
What’s not to get excited about? This is Rob Gronkowski here. The Lions, who could definitely use a tight end, would get a superstar with all the trimmings. He’s five-time Pro Bowler, he’s a four-time All-Pro and he’s one of the most exciting guys to watch off the field. Could you imagine Gronk partying in downtown Detroit? Could you imagine seeing that in person?
From there, he’s rated at 93.3 by Pro Football Focus, he went over 1,000 yards receiving again in 2017 and the thought of him on the Lions would no doubt make the analysts all over the country fawn over the Detroit Lions on a weekly basis. Okay, maybe not that last one. This would, in theory, be the perfect move.
What life with Gronk probably is in reality
I’ll concede that if Gronk were to come to Detroit, he would look good in his time here, but how long does that time even last? What are the Lions dealing with here personality wise? Does Gronk really want to leave? Or is New England trying to get rid of him? After all, Gronk was recently threatening to retire presumably if things didn’t go his way. Is Detroit “things going his way?”
Let’s say it is. Gronk will be 30 next May. The Lions are likely to get the 2018 season out of him before the major questions arise in the 2019 season. Gronk’s contract is backloaded, meaning that as the deal goes on, Gronk’s salary gets bigger. In 2018, Gronk will make $8 million. he’ll have a dead cap of $4 million. The Patriots would pick up half of that after the trade.
In 2019, Gronk makes $9 million. That would immediately make Gronk the third-highest paid player on the Lions. He’d be going on 31 at that time and the Lions would have to ask themselves, “Should we keep this guy or cut him loose while we can?” If the Lions decide to cut Gronk here, it costs them just $2 million in dead cap.
There’s a chance the Lions extend him at 31, but judging by the state of the NFL, being over 30 makes you expendable at just about every position but quarterback. So it seems to me that at best, you get Gronk for two years. At worse, he’s a really expensive one year rental.
Then there’s Gronk’s other issue that we all seem to ignore regularly. Gronk is hurt a lot. Like every single year. 2011 was the last time that Gronk played an entire 16 game season. He fractured his forearm in 2012 and missed five games, he re-fractured it in 2013 and didn’t play until Week 7, then he he tore his ACL and missed the final games of that season and a few games in 2014 as well. In 2015, he sprained his hamstring, got a bruised lung, had vertebral disc hernia and missed eight games. Finally in 2017, he missed a couple games with a bad bruise on his thigh and then nearly missed the Super Bowl with a concussion.
All told, Gronk has missed 26 of a possible 128 games and missed 39 of 128 possible starts. There’s no doubt that Gronk’s ability has been high when he’s on the field, but there’s also no doubt that Gronk gets hurt a lot. I’ll give him all the props in the world for coming back every time. But when is enough going to be enough for a 30 year old that keeps taking a pounding year in and year out? Do you really want to find out in Detroit?
What are the Lions giving up?
Make no mistake, this would be a blockbuster trade and would likely warrant something high to make it happen. Of course, when I say high, I’m saying NFL high not NBA high. We’re talking like third or fourth round draft pick, at the very least. The Patriots could also be asking for a player in return, for example another offensive player to offset the loss of Gronk. You could get lucky and watch them take a guy like Ameer Abdullah and maybe Jace Billingsley too. I think both of those guys would strive there and it wouldn’t be a big detriment for the Lions to lose them.
You could also see a guy like Golden Tate heading there in this trade. It makes sense. Tate’s deal is almost up and nobody seems to be sure if the Lions are going to keep him around. I personally think they’d be foolish not to. What Tate can do as a receiver outweighs what Gronk can do. You may not see it that way, but the truth is that nobody is more dangerous after the catch, and Tate has not missed a game since 2012. Give me Golden Tate over Rob Gronkowski any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I’m sure this segment of the piece will be laser focused upon. I welcome the hate tweets at @POD_Payton.
Trading away a high draft pick and a receiver with the talents of Tate for a possible one-year rental that has trouble staying on the field—but admittedly is great when he’s on it—just doesn’t sound appealing to me at all.
Once again, I don’t think this happens at all. Rob Gronkowski will play out the rest of his career in New England, and I would be willing to put money on that. So the whole point is moot, but if a miracle does happen and the Patriots do trade him, I’m just not totally sure I would want the Lions to be on the other side of that deal. I would, as always, welcome the opportunity to be wrong if the deal is sweet enough though.