Did Gronk, Brady send coded message in Instagram notes to Amendola?

Did Gronk, Brady send coded message in Instagram notes to Amendola?

When I was a kid, my dad came home with this album (yes, it was an album) from Bobby McFerrin. The hit song off that LP was “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Maybe, thanks to the internet and streaming services, that tune is making a comeback with this new generation, like say Rob Gronkowski.

The Pats all-pro tight end took to Instagram Wednesday to wish former teammate Danny Amendola well as he reportedly moves on to South Beach and the Miami Dolphins. Some of it was vintage Gronk:

“stay lit…”

That fits Gronk to a tee. But it was what came after that once again could be read as a sign that life in Foxboro has been even more difficult than it usually is under Bill Belichick.

“Be FREE,” Gronk writes, “Be HAPPY.”

The caps lock don’t appear to be an accident and continue a recurring theme that has shown itself this offseason. You have Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, saying that her husband just wants to work where he’s appreciated and have fun. That also aligns with what our our Tom E. Curran has been reporting about Gronkowski, that he felt “persecuted” this season and didn’t have a good time in 2017 working for the Pats.

Brady chimed in on Gronk’s post, replaying, “Well said gronk!!!!”

Amendola is reportedly getting over $8 million in guaranteed money, which far exceeds the last three seasons of earnings in New England. Meanwhile, Gronk is on the books for in excess of $9 million for the 2018-19 season but we remain unsure that he is in fact returning. The tight end made noise about retiring and while he is working out per usual, his agent Drew Rosenhaus has refused to reveal any details about Gronk’s plans.

What's next for Patriots at left tackle?

What's next for Patriots at left tackle?

Our guy Tom E. Curran put it ever so eloquently during a Periscope Q&A on Tuesday night: While Patriots fans might have their hands hovering over a panic button following the departures of Danny Amendola, Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis, they were free to smash it if Nate Solder signed elsewhere. 

That sound you heard Wednesday morning? Buttons. Smashed.  

Solder agreed to a four-year deal with the Giants that will make him the highest-paid tackle in the league. It’s a resounding endorsement for those who argue left tackle is the second most important position in the sport since Solder acknowledged to me last season that he didn’t necessarily consider himself to be in the top tier of tackles around the league. And he studies them. He regarded Jason Peters, Tyron Smith and Trent Williams as a cut above the rest. But now he’ll be paid more than any of them. 

I spoke to a handful of Patriots linemen, including Solder, as well as Bill Belichick and Dante Scarnecchia last season about accumulating tackle depth. While most acknowledged it’s not impossible to find good young tackles these days, none said it was easy. Because it’s not. Finding a player with the requisite size, athleticism, toughness and intelligence to man one of the tackle positions — particularly the left side — has been one of the great difficulties teams across the league have run into in recent seasons, and the Patriots may soon consider themselves to be among that group.

It’s the first time in a long time for them. Matt Light started at left tackle from 2001 until he retired following the 2011 season. Solder started on the left side in 2012 and has been there ever since when healthy. 

So what’s next for the protection of Tom Brady’s blindside? It's anyone’s guess. 

The Patriots tried to prepare for this. They drafted two tackles last spring: Tony Garcia in the third round and Conor McDermott in the sixth. McDermott was cut out of camp and Garcia missed the entire season on the non-football injury list. The team also signed and kept undrafted rookie Cole Croston, a guard/tackle prospect from Iowa, on the active roster all season. They like him. And fellow undrafted rookie tackle Andrew Jelks was with the team all year though, like Garcia, he was unavailable all season on NFI. 

Only the Patriots know if any of those players will be ready to play a key role at either tackle spot in 2018. We simply haven’t seen enough from any of them. And even Scarnecchia acknowledged the team will have to be patient with Garcia as he returns from a health scare that forced him to lose a significant amount of weight last season. 

Other familiar options? The Patriots could re-sign LaAdrian Waddle or Cam Fleming, who split right tackle work in Marcus Cannon’s absence last year. Waddle had a tremendous three-game stretch against Denver’s Von Miller, Oakland’s Khalil Mack and Miami’s Cam Ware last season, not allowing a single sack to those left-end rushers. Fleming performed well against talented fronts from Jacksonville and Philly late in the season.

Others set to hit the free agent market include Greg Robinson, a former first-rounder waived with an injury designation by the Lions last season and Justin Pugh, who played right tackle for the Giants but could be moved to left.  

There’s always the trade market. Or the Patriots could turn to the draft, but it’s not a deep tackle class this year, according to experts. Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage told us on Quick slants the Podcast recently that he had one tackle graded as a first-round talent this season: Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchy. 

The Patriots must have contingency plans at tackle now that Solder is headed two hundred miles south. It’s just hard to know exactly what they are at the moment.


Butler and Amendola's former teammates reach out on social media

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Butler and Amendola's former teammates reach out on social media

After Malcolm Butler mysteriously sat out the entire Super Bowl, it was pretty obvious his time in New England was over.

Today's free agency action confirmed that thought and he was scooped up by the Tennessee Titans.

Danny Amendola's future was a little more uncertain, but now we know he is heading to South Beach to play for the Dolphins.

Butler immediately rejoins his former teammate Logan Ryan who had an interesting reaction to the deal.

But Ryan sang a much less cryptic tune when he texted back and forth with Albert Breer.

The McCourty brothers were also fired up about the opportunity and money Butler is landing. The first tweet is from Jason McCourty, the second from Devin McCourty.

Julian Edelman reached out to his bro Danny Amendola as he departs for South Beach.

Tom Brady also showered love on his favorite third down receiver this past season.

Teammate. Friend. Brother. Leader. Champion. #80 #DannyPlayoff

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on