Reimer: Time to retire 'In Belichick We Trust' after revelation about illogical and ridiculous Gronk trade agreement

Alex Reimer
September 24, 2018 - 1:09 pm

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Oftentimes, even Bill Belichick’s most puzzling personnel decisions are explainable. Sure, it was bewildering to see the pass rush-desperate Pats trade Chandler Jones, but it wasn’t inexplicable –– given Jones’ demands for a contract extension and disastrous synthetic weed trip that left him shirtless and howling at the moon in a police station parking lot just one week before a playoff game. 

Throughout Belichick’s 18-year run with the Patriots, the majority of his unpopular moves –– cutting Lawyer Milloy, trading Deion Branch the first time, dealing Richard Seymour, ousting Logan Mankins, not re-signing Wes Welker, letting Darrelle Revis walk –– can be viewed through Belichick’s apparent deep-seated opposition to overpaying for football players even one day past their primes. And on most occasions, Belichick has been proven right, effectively nullifying any criticism the peanut gallery may be tempted to throw in his direction.

But with Adam Schefter’s report and Rob Gronkowski’s confirmation that Belichick agreed to trade the greatest tight end ever to the Lions this spring for draft picks, it’s time to expunge the “In Belichick We Trust” mantra from our collective tongues. Defenders of the Wall have been twisting themselves into pretzels with their recent rationalizations of Belichick’s apparent self-sabotage, from trading Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick to benching Malcolm Butler while Eric Rowe watched Nick Foles sail passes over his head for the entire Super Bowl. 

Trying to defend the logic behind trading Gronkowski might cause the TB12 avatar crowd to break into pieces. 

There’s no plausible argument that supports Belichick’s reported desire to trade Gronkowski last offseason. Gronk was coming off an exceptional campaign, catching 28 passes for 464 yards and three touchdowns in his final four games. Thanks to pliability work with Alex Guerrero, it seemed like Gronk was pain-free down the stretch, and he played like it. Gronkowski reeled in nine catches for 116 yards and two scores in Super Bowl LII. Usually, offensive performances like that result in wins, provided your defense can stop the opposition on third down.

On top of that, Gronk is locked into a team-friendly contract, earning a lower annual base salary than Jimmy Graham, Travis Kelce and Jordan Reed –– and just $1 million more than Trey Burton. The Patriots did add $4.3 million in incentives to Gronkowski's deal last month, which will be difficult to reach if defenses continue to double-team him like he’s the gunner in punt coverage.

Schefter reports only Gronkowski’s threats to retire stopped the trade. On Sunday, following the Patriots' 26-10 beatdown at the hands of the mediocre Lions, Gronk said he “wasn’t going anywhere without (Tom) Brady.” Brady, who threw for just 133 yards in the defeat and at one point smashed his helmet on the sidelines, returned Gronkowski’s love during his weekly appearance on “Kirk & Callahan.”

"I think that speaks to our relationship and I feel as strongly about him as he does about me. I love the guy," Brady said. "He's had a big impact on my career -- personally and professionally. Like I said, I'm very lucky to play with him and we're going to keep fighting."

It surely must have stung Brady to watch Danny Amendola sign with the Dolphins for just $8.25 million guaranteed over two years, but it couldn't have been that surprising. The Patriots restructured Amendola's contract for three straight years, knocking down his base salary to $1.6 million for 2017. It's apparent Belichick didn’t value the injury-riddled slot receiver, despite his penchant for performing in big games and apparent bond with Brady. 

The Brandin Cooks trade was more surprising, but also follows some sort of rationale. The Patriots surrendered the No. 32 pick in the NFL Draft to acquire him, and got the No. 23 overall selection in return. (They used that pick on offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, who’s out for the season due to injury, and saw the Falcons pick up electric wideout Calvin Ridley just three slots later, but that’s beside the point.). 

Plus, the Rams gave Cooks almost $50 million guaranteed. If he was seeking that kind of money, it was only a matter of time before the Patriots dealt him.

But Gronk is signed through 2019, where he’s slated to make $9 million. Money isn’t an issue with him.

It was obvious in April the Patriots weren’t treating Brady’s 41-year-old season like any special occasion. But the Gronkowski revelation shows that Belichick may have viewed this as a rebuilding year. As John Tomase writes, it's not difficult to imagine Belichick hoping to packge the Lions’ No. 20 pick with another first-round selection to move up and grab Brady's next heir apparent. 

The Patriots’ dismal receiving corp Sunday featured Phillip Dorsett and Cordarelle Patterson. And if Belichick had his way, perhaps Dwayne Allen would’ve been lining up alongside them at tight end, with Josh Allen watching from the sidelines with a clipboard in his hand. 

One must wonder how appreciated Brady feels thinking about that. 

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