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Patriots Had No Leverage to Keep Rob Gronkowski Around

If Gronk wanted to come out of retirement, there was only one option the Patriots had: trade him.

The NFL offseason got spicy just ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. The New England Patriots have reportedly traded tight end Rob Gronkowski and a 7th round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a fourth round pick

The trade happened because of three reasons 1) Gronkowski wanted to un-retire and play with Tom Brady outside of New England 2) The Buccaneers wanted Gronkowski 3) The Patriots didn't really have a say in the matter. 

Why did New England have no choice? It's simple: Gronkowski still has a cap hit of $10 million for 2020, per OverTheCap, because he still has one year left on his contract with the Patriots. On top of that, New England would have had to take on that money in 2020 if Gronkowski had officially filed for retirement. The Patriots currently have $1.07 million in available cap space. As you can see, they cannot handle taking on a contract like Gronkowski's this year. So the future Hall of Famer was shipped to Tampa Bay in exchange for a Day 3 selection. 

The Buccaneers' tight end room is overflowing now. They already had former first round pick O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Now that Gronkowski is in town, one has to think Tampa Bay will aggressively shop Howard - who was on the trade block ahead of last season's trade deadline and is now reportedly on the block again - ahead of/during the draft. 

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New England is in the market for a tight end since they still haven't filled the void left by Gronkowski last offseason, so maybe having an open line of communication because of the Gronk trade could send a tight end the Patriots' way. 

If that can happen, then the Patriots can focus on drafting other positions when the draft begins on Thursday. They were expected to draft at least one - if not two - tight ends this year. However, if they acquired Howard, that would not be necessary. The option may be available to draft developmental talent to put behind Howard on the depth chart, but using multiple drafts picks on that position would be unwarranted.