Hannable: Rob Gronkowski having strong, yet underrated season, which could earn him $5.5 million

Ryan Hannable
November 30, 2017 - 11:44 pm

Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports

FOXBORO — Through Week 12, Rob Gronkowski has 46 catches for 702 yards and seven touchdowns, but compared to some of his seasons in the past, this is nothing. 

The tight end is on pace for 67 catches with 1,021 yards and 10 touchdowns. This would be his fourth-most catches, fourth-most yards and tied for fifth-most touchdowns.

From a pure stats perspective, it isn’t his best year, but it is deserving of more attention than it is getting.

For starters, he’s missed just one game all year and that was on a short week in Week 5 against the Buccaneers. This was the biggest concern going into the year after he needed season-ending back surgery last year. He’s played in 10 of the 11 games and unlike last season, he’s been a factor in all the games he’s played.

Gronkowski has played at least 87 percent of the snaps in nine of the 10 games he’s played in. He’s also had at least three catches in nine of the 10 games and at least 70 yards receiving in six of them.

The tight end has also been asked to do more blocking than in the past with all the injuries the Patriots have dealt with up front and also the strong defensive fronts they have gone up against.

Although he hasn’t received the same attention as in some of his other great seasons, this has been a very strong season for Gronkowski.

His season could earn him the first tier of his incentive package, which is $5.5 million. In the offseason, Gronkowski restructured his contract to a three-tier incentive package worth $5.5 million, $3 million and $1 million. This is in addition to his base salary of $4.25 million.

Gronkowski would pick up an extra $5.5 million if he participates in 90 percent of the offensive snaps, or catches 80 passes, or gains 1,200 receiving yards, or scores 14 touchdowns, or is named a first-team All-Pro; an extra $3 million if he participates in 80 percent of the snaps, or catches 70 passes, or has 1,000 receiving yards, or scores 12 touchdowns; or an extra $1 million if he participates in 70 percent of the snaps, or catches 60 passes, or has 800 receiving yards, or scores 10 touchdowns.

He won’t be able to reach the first tier in offensive snap percentage because of the missed game, but he has an outside chance of hitting the yards or touchdowns because of two games left against the Bills. The tight end dominates the Bills, as in 11 career games he has 52 catches for 813 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Even if he doesn’t get to the numbers he needs, Gronkowski is making a strong case to be a first-team All-Pro, which would get him the $5.5 million. His only competition is the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and the Eagles’ Zach Ertz, but Gronkowski is having an overall better year.

Kelce is on pace to have 90 catches for 1,130 yards and seven touchdowns, while Ertz is on pace to have 80 receptions for 929 yards and 10 touchdowns. Team records also play some role and the Chiefs are currently imploding, which could impact Kelce’s status. 

Although it may not be a total lock, Gronkowski is looking good when it comes to being named first team All-Pro and thus earning an extra $5.5 million.

When it comes to the 2017 Patriots offense, it seems like Tom Brady and Brandin Cooks have received the majority of the attention, but it’s getting time to start giving Gronkowski the praise he deserves.

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