The retirement of tight end Rob Gronkowski, though not unexpected, nevertheless carries a suddenness and finality that creates real questions for the Patriots regarding a position that has become an important part of the offense. So where will the Patriots go from here?
They have four general options: Sign a free agent, trade for a tight end, turn to the draft, or rely on players currently on the roster. They can also mix and match options, and that’s presumably what they’ll do.
As previously noted, their interest in Jared Cook could be rekindled unless and until he finally signs his name at the bottom of a contract with the Saints. Regarding the draft, they could try to move up in round one to get one of the top prospects, take the best tight end available at No. 32, or pounce on a guy in the later rounds who slips through the cracks but also fits precisely with what they’re trying to do.
A trade is less likely, but who knows when it comes to the Patriots? Coach Bill Belichick always has a plan and his success has vindicated all past plans and it’s likely that whatever he does eventually will be successful because everything else he ever has done seems to work out.
Besides, the Patriots can’t claim they weren’t ready for this. They knew it was coming sooner than later, and they knew it could happen this year. It’s now happened, and we’ll learn what the team’s plan is as it unfolds.