Despite announcing his intention to retire Sunday, Rob Gronkowski officially retired Tuesday when the New England Patriots placed him on the reserve/retired list. That doesn’t close the door on Gronkowski’s career, however.
As long as Gronkowski hasn’t signed his retirement papers, he still could return to the New England Patriots at any time. Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has strongly hinted this could happen midway through the 2019 season.
The Patriots would simply take Gronkowski off the reserve/retired list, and his old contract, in which he had one year remaining, would kick back in. For Gronkowski to play for another team, the Patriots would either have to release or trade him.
Gronkowski had a $9 million salary and $750,000 in per-game bonuses coming in 2019.
So, what would the All-Pro tight end’s cap hit look like if he did intend to return next season? The Patriots already are carrying $2 million in dead cap, accounting for Gronkowski’s prorated signing bonus. They’ll carry that regardless of whether Gronkowski plays.
If Gronkowski returns, they will pay him $529,411.76 per regular-season week in base salary and $46,875 in per-game roster bonuses.
Assuming Gronkowski returns after the Patriots’ bye week, that means he would be paid $576,286.76 per week.
— If Gronkowski comes back in Week 13, for instance, his cap hit would be $2,305,147.04.
— If Gronkowski returns in Week 9 before their bye week, his cap hit would be $5,139,705.84.
— If Gronkowski returns in Week 10 with their bye week behind them, his cap hit would be $4,610,294.08.
— If Gronkowski returns for Week 1, his cap hit would be $9,609,375.
The Patriots can restructure Gronkowski’s contract a year after his last reworking, which occurred in late August 2018. They also could release Gronkowski and sign him to an entirely new contract.
Of course, Gronkowski must want to play for any of this to happen, but it’s fairly simple for him to return. The Patriots’ currently have over $17 million in cap room and typically like to carry at least $5 million in space into the season.