The news was sudden as it was confusing. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who retired last year after nine seasons and three Super Bowl victories with the New England Patriots, would be coming out of retirement. The rub for Patriots fans? He would be traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gronkowski's reason for coming out of retirement is obvious: He's going to reunite with his old pal Tom Brady, who has thrown more touchdown passes to Gronk than any other player in his career.
But why are the Patriots having to trade away a player who retired and didn't play a single snap for them last season?
The answer is in his contract: He still has one year left on his deal with New England, in which he would be owed $9 million in base salary. He'd also be owed another $1 million in bonuses.
As Jeff Howe of the The Athletic noted, that deal wouldn't have done the Patriots any good as they try to clear more salary cap space in their roster for the upcoming season.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, they're getting at least one draft pick from Tampa Bay in the trade. It's a noticeably small return for someone of Gronkowski's pedigree.
2018 Rob Gronkowski trade:— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 21, 2020
Lions receive Gronkowski and a second-round pick (No. 43.)
Patriots receive a first-round pick (No. 20) and a second-round pic (No. 51)
2020 Gronkowski trade:
Buccaneers receive Gronkowski and a seventh-round pick.
Patriots receive a fourth-round pick.
With the NFL Draft starting on April 23, that pick may come in handy for New England. But it's anyone's guess as to what Bill Belichick and company will do with it.
Gronk's return to the NFL in Tampa Bay may have a deep impact on the rest of the league. He is arguably the best tight end ever and he'll be reconnecting with the quarterback who knows him best. He'll also be joining a roster that includes Mike Evans, a three-time Pro Bowler who is widely considered one of the best wide receivers in the league and receiver Chris Godwin, who was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time this past season. On paper, it makes for a very dangerous mix for Brady to choose from.
It's been a wild off-season for the Patriots to say the least. For the Buccaneers, they've benefited from the chaos. And with Brady and Gronkowski, they may be forming a Southern Foxborough in Florida.