Hannable: If Bill Belichick wants to turn tables on Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, he will draft QB, TE high in draft

Ryan Hannable
April 17, 2018 - 11:04 pm

Jim O'Connor/USA Today Sports

As it stands right now, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have the leverage against Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

After Jimmy Garoppolo was traded, the only quarterback on the roster besides Brady is Brian Hoyer, who poses no threat to taking Brady’s job. As for the tight ends, it’s just Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister, Troy Niklas and Will Tye. Again, not much to threaten the All-Pro.

If both players want to skip the voluntary offseason workout program they can without having to worry about someone else potentially gaining ground on them at their respective positions.

As much as Bill Belichick would prefer all his players to attend every offseason session, it’s not like he has much hanging over these two players to get them there, especially with what has gone down over the last several months. Brady’s personal training guru Alex Guerrero has been banned from the Gillette Stadium and Gronkowski is essentially taking a pay cut after making over $10 million last season and now being on the books for just over $8 million this year.

But, that could change a bit next week.

The Patriots have four picks in the top 63 overall, including two first-rounders and two second-rounders. What if Belichick used two of these picks on a quarterback and a tight end? It’s certainly possible.

Brady will be 41 years old before the start of the season and he’s only signed through 2019. The Patriots need to start thinking about their succession plan. Even though Gronkowski will be 29 years old next month, it feels like he’s more year-to-year at this point with all his injuries and retirement rumors that have been thrown around this offseason. There’s no natural replacement on the roster, so that needs to be thought about, as well.

If Garoppolo was still on the Patriots, Brady wouldn’t be missing more than a day or two of the offseason workout program. That’s a fact.

Just look at how he spoke before and after Garoppolo was traded.

"If you're going to compete against me, you better be willing to give up your life, because I'm giving up mine,” he said in Episode 1 of Tom vs. Time, which was shot last offseason, well before Garoppolo was dealt.

Then in the final episode, shot in the days after the Super Bowl LII loss, with Garoppolo signed to a five-year deal in San Francisco, Brady sounded a bit different.

“I’m sitting here three days after the year getting my Achilles worked on and my thumb and you go, ‘What are we doing this for? What are we doing this for? Who are we doing this for? Why are we doing this?,’” he said. “You have to have answers for those questions and they have to be with a lot of conviction. When you lose your conviction you probably should be doing something else."

Whether Brady will admit it or not, Garoppolo provided the main source of motivation for the quarterback and now that he’s no longer around, it can be seen why Brady may not have that same drive as he did when Garoppolo was waiting in the wings.

Drafting a quarterback high in the draft could change Brady’s attitude, as after all, he thrives on competition. While even he has to admit the team should be thinking of the future given his age, Brady is going to want to go out on his own terms. He’s not going to let some “kid” take his job.

If a talented rookie quarterback gets added to the roster next week, you better believe Brady will be at every offseason workout proving to everyone he’s willing to give up his life.

Although a little different, bringing in a skilled rookie tight end would also impact Gronkowski. Having another quality tight end on the roster takes away Gronkowski’s leverage. 

It also would put trading him more in play as there would be a fallback option on the roster. Gronkowski clearly wants to play with Brady and a trade probably wouldn’t be something he would like, even if it meant a little more money. Having a fallback option on the roster makes it a possibility.

Gronkowski is also a very competitive player. If there were a highly-skilled tight end added to the roster, he would likely make sure he was around to get the message across that he was the leader of that room and not going anywhere.

Like Brady, Gronkowski would probably attend the offseason program if there was someone on the roster capable of taking away some of his targets.

So, while this week these two players have not having suitable replacements on the roster hanging over Belichick’s head and they can sort of do as they please, next week he can change that. 

We’ll see what happens then.