Even if Rob Gronkowski wasn't specifically thinking about his bank account when he had a catch near the goal line ruled incomplete in Denver on Sunday, you couldn't blame him if his earning potential was somewhere in the back of his mind.
That's just how his contract is constructed for 2017. It's heavily incentive-laden, with multiple statistical tiers that can bump his $5.25 million salary all the way up to a maximum of $10.75 million.
If Gronkowski hits 70 percent playing time, 60 catches, 800 yards or 10 touchdowns he would earn $6.75 million for 2017. The second tier would pay him $8.75 million if he gets to 80 percent playing time, 70 catches, 1,000 receiving yards or 12 touchdowns.
The big money, the $10.75 million max, would roll his way if he plays 90 percent of Patriots offensive snaps, has 80 catches, 1,200 receiving yards or earns All-Pro recognition.
After a six-catch, 83-yard game against the Jets in Week 6, Gronkowski was on track to hit the max value of his deal because he was on pace for 1,203 receiving yards.
Though he's still well within reach of hitting that big pay day, he's now on pace to fall just short of the max.
Gronkowski caught four passes for 74 yards at Mile High, meaning that, based on his averages, he's now tracking for 72 catches for 1,093 yards and nine touchdowns. Even though he's been used extensively lately -- he's missed just 17 snaps since Week 6 -- he's on pace to play 81 percent of snaps because he sat out a Week 5 game against the Bucs.
All of those numbers would slot him in for $8.75 million this season.
What's interesting about the incentive tiers built into Gronkowski's contract for this season is that if he hits the $10.75 million max, that could then impact how he views the final two years of his contract with the Patriots.
Gronkowski is scheduled to earn $8 million in base salary in 2018 and $9 million in 2019. For both seasons he has bonuses that would combine to pay him an additional $1 million each season -- $750,000 in roster bonuses and $250,000 in workout bonuses, per the Boston Globe.
Should Gronowski hit his $10.75 million this season, he would essentially be taking a pay cut if those final two years on his contract -- his 29 and 30-year-old seasons -- aren't altered.
That would then put the Patriots in a tight spot. Gronkowski is already scheduled to have the richest base salary among NFL tight ends in 2019, and his 2018 base salary is scheduled to be the second-richest behind only Jordan Reed's.
Would the team be willing to go any further than that for Gronkowski? He's obviously crucial to their operation, but his injury history is what it is, and the likelihood is that he's closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
That might fall under the category of a cross-that-bridge-when/if-we-get-to-it situation for Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio. But if Gronkowski continues to stay healthy and produces as one of the best at his position, and if he hits that $10.75 million mark, it will be a situation worth monitoring.
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