The one-game suspension Rob Gronkowski received Monday could have a major impact on the New England Patriots tight end’s earnings.
Gronkowski, who was suspended for his late hit on Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White on Sunday, restructured his contract before this season. His new deal is incentive-laden, featuring three different payment tiers and a maximum salary of $10.75 million, and the need to sit out one game will make it more difficult for him to reach the highest benchmarks.
Below are the details of those tiers, via ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Gronkowski, who currently has 55 catches for 849 yards and seven touchdowns, reached Tier 3 on Sunday, bumping his salary from $5.25 million to $6.75 million.
Even with the suspension, Gronkowski shouldn’t have much trouble reaching the second tier, as he needs a total of just 15 catches or 151 receiving yards over the New England’s final three games to do so. Reaching the highest level, though, will be a much tougher ask.
To earn his maximum salary for 2017, Gronkowski would need to record 25 catches or 351 receiving yards over the final three weeks of the regular season — an average of 8.3 catches or 117 yards per game. Sunday’s win over the Bills was the first game this season in which Gronkowski cleared either of those marks (nine catches, 147 yards).
The suspension, which Gronkowski reportedly is appealing, also would prevent him from reaching the 90 percent play time benchmark, as he already missed one game earlier this season with an injury.
A first-team All-Pro selection automatically would trigger the largest possible payday, though, and Gronkowski, a four-time All-Pro, remains a front-runner for that honor. He’s just 22 yards behind Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs for the NFL lead among tight ends, and his 15.4 yards-per-catch average is more than 2 yards higher than Kelce’s. Both players have seven touchdown catches.
(On a somewhat related note, New England’s success over these next few games also could affect Gronk’s bottom line. Say the Patriots clinch home-field advantage in Week 15 or 16. Would they really have any reason to play Gronkowski against the New York Jets in what would be a meaningless regular-season finale?)
In addition to the contract implications, Gronkowski’s suspension also will cost Gronkowski $281,250 in salary if his appeal is unsuccessful.
Thumbnail photo via Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports Images