FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- While most everyone figured that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was returning for the 2018 season, the team itself didn't have 100 percent clarity until Gronkowski met with coach Bill Belichick on Tuesday and informed him of his intentions.
This was a critical development for two reasons:
It is my understanding that it reopened lines of communication that had been cut off to this point, as Gronkowski hasn't been taking part in the voluntary offseason program.
It gives the team certainty going into the draft, which will help in their decision-making process as things unfold.
Gronkowski's decision to reopen those lines of communication comes three days after he held a playful "news conference" as part of his business partnership with Monster Energy and Supercross. The "news conference," in which Gronkowski talked of his lack of a commitment for the 2018 season with a humorous touch, wasn't received favorably by parts of the fan base, which had grown tired of him continuing to use his lack of a decision for publicity purposes.
It is unclear how it was received by the team, but Gronkowski's Instagram post could be an acknowledgment from him that it was time for a reset.
As for what this means for the Patriots, they have Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister, Will Tye and Troy Niklas on their tight end depth chart. They still could draft a tight end, but that's a solid group and the need to do so is naturally lowered.
Gronkowski has two years left on his contract and is scheduled to earn a base salary of $8 million in 2018.