We’re at the point in quarantine where dogs are floating out “wild” trade rumors on Twitter.
And since free agency has slowed to a halt, we’ll give the report enough credence to explain if it’s even possible.
Leroy, the dog of PFT Commenter from Barstool Sports, “reported” Wednesday that former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is considering applying for reinstatement with the intention of joining quarterback Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “Woof woof.”
Hearing a wild rumor that has serious legs. Rob Gronkowski is strongly considering returning to the NFL to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with his old teammate Tom Brady. Has been training in Florida in addition to Wrestlemania. Please credit Leroy woof woof
— NFL Insider Leroy (@LeroyInsider) April 8, 2020
Sorry for destroying Kayfabe, but we’re pretty sure PFT is using Leroy as a conduit. “Leroy” did correctly report that fullback Anthony Sherman was re-signing with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason. He also seemingly had the news that NFL Red Zone would be re-airing this month. He’s also floated out some rumors that never came to fruition.
So, let’s get into Leroy’s “report.”
The Patriots currently hold Gronkowski’s rights on the reserve/retired list, so the tight end can’t simply join the Buccaneers. Gronkowski holds a cap hit of $9,859,375, which the Patriots can’t currently afford with just over $1 million in cap space. So, if Gronkowski wants to return, the Patriots’ hands are tied. They could not reinstate Gronkowski without first freeing up $9 million in cap space. They would either have to release Gronkowski or they could trade him.
But would the Patriots have to absorb Gronkowski’s nearly $10 million cap hit before trading him? Precedent says no.
The Baltimore Ravens traded retired linebacker Rolando McClain to the Dallas Cowboys on July 1, 2014. The way the transaction is listed on the NFL wire, the Cowboys — not the Ravens — reinstated McClain. So, that means the Ravens traded McClain while on the reserve/retired list, then the Cowboys reinstated him.
The same thing happened in 2017 with running back Marshawn Lynch. The Seattle Seahawks traded Lynch to the Raiders, then Oakland reinstated him.
(Thanks to Brad Spielberger of OverTheCap.com for finding those two instances for NESN.com.)
So, if Gronkowski, who’s currently enjoying retirement as WWE 24/7 Champion, truly does want to join the Buccaneers, then the Patriots could trade his rights to Tampa Bay before he’s reinstated. Then the Buccaneers could reinstate him in a separate transaction.
Is this likely to happen? Probably not. But it makes some sense on a number of different levels.
The Buccaneers have two talented tight ends in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, but Gronkowski is perhaps the greatest tight end of all time coming off of a year of rest. Gronkowski also would give Brady a target with some familiarity. The Buccaneers would likely restructure Gronkowski’s deal.
For Gronkowski, playing with Bucs head coach Bruce Arians would provide a more lenient environment. Playing for Bill Belichick is a grind. Arians would be more fun. Gronkowski previously owned a house in Tampa, so he has some roots there.
And the Patriots could essentially acquire assets, whether that’s in the form of draft picks or players, for free. We have absolutely no idea what the Patriots could get for Gronkowski at this juncture. The Seahawks received a fifth-sixth round swap for Lynch. The Ravens got a sixth-seventh round swap for McClain.
The Patriots probably would get more for Gronkowski. It would make some sense for the Buccaneers to throw Brate or Howard into the deal. No matter what the Patriots get, however, it essentially would be free assets. They obviously aren’t planning to have Gronkowski this season, anyway. It would be better to get something for him and ship him off to an NFC squad than to get nothing in a release.
So, that’s the way it could happen if Leroy is right and Gronkowski indeed is interested in a return to football to play with Brady. And if Leroy is correct, then the rest of us reporters would have to watch our backs. There would be a new dog in town.