Hannable: Rob Gronkowski has better chance of playing in 2019 by the day


INDIANAPOLIS — It’s been 25 days since Super Bowl LIII when the Patriots beat the Rams for their third title in five seasons. 

One would have thought there would have been a decision by now on whether or not Rob Gronkowski will play in 2019, but there’s been nothing. After contemplating retirement last offseason and battling injuries for much of this past year, it was rumored that it would be his final season. 

Now, almost a month since the game, there still hasn’t been anything official from the 29-year-old tight end.

The only hint of anything has been a generic few lines from his agent Drew Rosenhaus on ESPN a few weeks ago.

“I checked in with Gronk a couple of days ago. I talked with the Patriots about it," he said. "Right now, Rob is thinking it through. He is giving it a lot of thought. Rob will certainly I think make a decision in the foreseeable future. I don’t want to put any pressure on him and give him a timeframe, but I would imagine it will be sometime in the next couple of weeks.”

Even among insiders at the NFL combine, no one really knows what he’s going to do.

“I think it could go either way. … If I knew I would report it right now, but we don’t know the answer quite yet,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said in an interview with Patriots.com.

During the year, and even the week of the Super Bowl, many were fairly certain it would be Gronkowski’s last game, but with no decision almost a full month removed from the game, maybe it actually wasn’t.

The longer Gronkowski waits to make a decision, the more likely it is that he plays next season. If he was fully set on retiring, he would have done it by now. Him taking this long to make a choice shows he’s really contemplating things and there’s a much better chance of him returning than it felt all year.

Gronkowski is under contract for 2019, the final year of his deal. He has a base salary of  $9 million and a cap hit of almost $12 million. After finishing with just 47 catches for 682 yards and three touchdowns this past season, it feels like he’s a candidate to be asked to take a pay cut if he does return.

This may actually be what decides things.

If he can earn his full salary and not have any money taken away, maybe he does return for another year with Tom Brady and Co. after all. If he’s held off this long from making a decision, it certainly feels like there’s a good amount pushing him towards a return. What that is remains to be seen considering he could go out on top, and why would he want to put his body through another grueling season?

But, maybe Brady did a lot of persuading.

Gronkowski can also use his situation as leverage against the team. If it comes to him and asks him to take a pay cut, he could just say he’s retiring. Even with what he was last year, he still has the ability to completely change a game — just look at the game-winning touchdown drive in Super Bowl LIII. The Patriots obviously would love to have him back, so maybe they would have no choice but to keep him at his current salary because of the risk of losing him.

If Gronkowski is in fact going to retire, the team likely wants an answer before free agency in a few weeks so it can plan accordingly. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the team gave him a loose deadline around then to let them know either way. It does not feel like it will take until draft week like last offseason.

The further removed from the last season he gets, the more refreshed his body feels and the easier it is to convince himself he can play another year. And the longer he takes to let the organization know, the less likely it is it has a replacement plan in place. And that goes beyond just drafting a tight end because even if he returns, it’s in the Patriots' best interest to draft a tight end for the future now.

Bottom line, the longer the decision drags out, the better the odds are Gronkowski is back with the Patriots in 2019.