With two years remaining on his rookie contract, tight end Rob Gronkowski agreed to a new deal with the Patriots on Friday, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
But why now? Here are some thoughts:
APPEAL FOR GRONKOWSKI
The former second-round pick was set to earn just $1.115 million in base salary over the next two seasons, plus minimal offseason workout bonuses and incentives. His new contract reportedly includes an $8 million signing bonus, which he will receive up-front. It's a large jump in short-term pay that is hard to pass up. By inking a deal now, he also gains some financial security in case of injury (he missed his final season at Arizona with a back injury) or decline in production before his rookie contract expires.
RISK FOR GRONKOWSKI
Gronkowski's extension is reportedly for an additional six years beyond the end of his rookie contract, and reportedly includes a $10 million option bonus the team can exercise in 2016. This essentially puts Gronkowski under the team's control through 2019, when he will be 31 years old. If Gronkowski continues at his record-setting pace, he may again be one of the league's more underpaid players by the latter half of his deal.
APPEAL FOR PATRIOTS
At first glance, this looks like a team-friendly deal that allows the Patriots to lock-up one of their young stars. While $18.17 million in guaranteed money is a lot to hand over to a player who has only been in the NFL for two seasons, it is likely significantly less than what Gronkowski would have commanded on the open market once his rookie deal expired in two years. They now have a centerpiece to their offense under their control for eight years at an affordable rate. This avoids a contract situation with Gronkowski looming next year, while also freeing up the franchise tag in 2014 to be used on another player.
RISK FOR PATRIOTS
While Gronkowski has remained healthy aside from the ankle injury he suffered in January, there have always been looming questions about his durability long-term. He slipped to the second-round in 2010 because of a back injury that limited him while in college, and if Gronkowski has that injury recur as his NFL career progresses, his productivity could take a major hit. In giving Gronkowski an extension with two years left on his deal, the Patriots also set a precedent where other high-performing but underpaid players on the team could use when asking for a new contract from the team.