The New England Patriots and Rob Gronkowski agreed to restructure the star tight end's contract with a bit of immediate security that suggests what has long been presumed: He isn't going anywhere for a long time.
Gronkowski's contract called for a $10 million option bonus for the team to decide upon by the end of the 2015 league year that would, in effect, kick in the remaining four years on his deal. If the team opted to decline that bonus, Gronkowski would become a free agent, an unlikely outcome given his production and standing as a focal point of the team's offense.
But that's a decision the Patriots won't soon have to make, as the team recently reworked the deal by paying Gronkowski a $4 million bonus at the outset of training camp, leaving just $6 million to be paid out by the end of the league year, according to league sources.
The motivation for such a deal can be as simple as the team wanting to reward a player who has performed at a high level (and would have seen the same money at the end of the year), or perhaps also as a method of cash-flow management. The decision does not affect the team's salary cap and there are no additional tweaks to the contract for future years, but it puts to rest any conversation -- even if unlikely -- about whether the team would pick up Gronk's option.
Gronkowski made news earlier this summer when he revealed in his book "It's Good to be Gronk" that he had yet to spend any of the money he'd made from the Patriots over his five NFL seasons -- which amounts to more than $10 million -- instead living off endorsement deals.
The 26-year-old has established himself as one of the game's pre-eminent players, hauling in 52 touchdowns in just 65 career regular-season contests. He was signed to an extension after just two seasons in the NFL that can keep him with the Patriots through the 2019 season.