Pats reportedly tried to trade Gronk three days before draft
Despite earlier refutations by the Patriots and Robert Kraft that all the Rob Gronkowski trade rumors were "completely false," they've still continued to swirl around Foxborough. Now, ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio is reporting that the team called around the league trying to arrange a deal for the big tight end as late as three days before the draft.
Florio indicated that Bill Belichick and Pats brass were interested in moving up for a potential run at Baker Mayfield--though, great as he is, Gronk might not have been enough considering that the Browns took Mayfield first overall. It's possible the Patriots were aiming for the second pick and hoping the Browns passed on the Oklahoma signal-caller (Mayfield's agent did say the Patriots called and told him to prepare for a surprise if his client was available at #2), but even then a straight up swap of Gronk for the #2 pick might not have worked.
Gronkowski is the best tight end in NFL history. That part is clear. But given his injury history and soon-to-expire contract, the prospect of handing the Patriots a franchise passer like Mayfield to groom as Tom Brady's clear heir seems a bit hard to justify. After all, it would be easy for Gronk to simply leave in free agency after two years (not considering the possibility of a franchise tag, but still) while Mayfield stepped seamlessly into the starting role in New England.
In fact, Gronk didn't even firmly commit to playing in 2018 (as the article pointed out) until two days before the draft began--when these talks were being conducted, any potential buyer faced a very real possibility of their shiny new acquisition simply walking out before he even put on a uniform.
On the Patriots side of things, it's equally hard to imagine any deal getting done. As noncommittal as Gronk has been this offseason (it's hard to blame him, given his current situation), he's still Tom Brady's favorite target and an absolute game-wrecking force over the middle--and when it counts, he's been a model soldier for Bill Belichick and the coaching staff. With the coach-owner-quarterback relationship already strained, it's almost impossible to see Bill Belichick cutting so hard against his quarterback's and owner's wishes and dealing one of the team's brightest stars. Any Gronkowski trade would almost certainly have ignited an open, ugly civil war between the different camps--not a recipe for immediate success, no matter how you approach it.
Besides, trading Gronkowski and throwing in extra first-round capital to move up into the top five picks just wouldn't make financial success. Considering Bill Belichick's long and distinguished history of trading down in the draft to accrue extra selections, such a blockbuster move would have been almost the complete antithesis of his historical style.
So, while the calls may have been made, it's highly unlikely anything resembling a finished deal was anywhere near completion when Gronkowski committed to playing for the 2018 season and talks broke off. There was no reason for the Pats not to gauge a little market interest and see the potential value of their star, even if only for future reference in the event of a large change. But in the end it's definitely a good thing nothing concrete ended up happening. With so much noise, it's more important than ever that the players can lock in and block out the distractions to succeed.