Putting Gronkowski deal in context after Washington gives Reed extension


Putting Gronkowski deal in context after Washington gives Reed extension

Rob Gronkowski's contract with the Patriots continues to look like a relative bargain as tight ends around the league haul in big money on a per-year basis. 

On Thursday, Washington announced that it had come to terms on a long-term contract extension with tight end Jordan Reed. The deal is reportedly worth $50 million over five years, including $22 million guaranteed. 

That's not a bad pay day for a player who has missed 14 games due to injury over the course of his first three seasons. When healthy, he's proven to be one of the most dynamic players at his position -- playing more as an over-sized wide receiver at 6-foot-3, 236 pounds than a true dual-threat tight end -- and now he's being paid as such. 

Reed's new contract allows us an opportunity to take another look at Gronkowski's deal, which has come into focus ever since he sent out a tweet in March that indicated he felt as though he was taking a pay cut when the Patriots picked up an option that would keep him in New England through 2019.

In the tweet, Gronkowski said he doesn't play for the money -- and according to him he hasn't spent a dime of what the Patriots have paid him since entering the league -- but it seemed to be relatively clear that the structure of his contract was on his mind when he took to social media.

Gronkowski signed a six-year, $54 million extension in 2012. By then he had proven how important he was to the Patriots offense, but he had a lengthy injury history going back to his college playing days. At the time, a deal that both paid him at the top of the market and gave him a measure of security was welcomed with open arms.

Now here we are in 2016, and the market has shifted. The salary cap has increased and many teams have opted to pay their tight ends bigger chunks of the pie, sliding Gronkowski down the list of highest-paid players at that position based on average annual value. 

Reed and Seattle's Jimmy Graham ($10 million) now top the list. Kansas City's Travis Kelce ($9.4 million) and Jacksonville's Julius Thomas ($9.2 million) also fall in ahead of Gronkowski.

Considering where those players stack up with Gronkowski in terms of production, the Patriots' All-Pro seems to have every right to furrow his brow when he looks at his contract by comparison. 

It could be a while though before Gronkowski sees any alterations to his income, however. First and foremost, he still had four years remaining on his contract as it's currently constructed. The Patriots front office gambled and won with the deal they gave him four years ago, and barring a holdout, they'd have little incentive to re-work it. 

There's also the matter of where Gronkowski's deal falls in terms of the team's list of priorities. He's at least still paid near the top of the market at his position.

There are several of his teammates -- corners Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, defensive end Jabaal Sheard and receiver Julian Edelman -- who are either a) about to become free agents after the 2016 or b) could make the argument that they're even more significantly underpaid than Gronkowski. Some fall under both categories. 

As great as Gronkowski has been, and as important as he is to his team's success, he may have to take his place in line when it comes to receiving a deal that more favorably reflects his value. 

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

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Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."