So I think it’s safe to say that if you watch football, there’s a pretty good chance that you know who Rob Gronkowski is. The former New England Patriot and future Hall of Fame tight end re-signed a one year deal with Tampa Bay right before free-agency kicked off.
While it was pretty obvious that he didn’t want to go to another city based on his relationship with Tom Brady, he did still sign a pretty high priced deal. One year, $10 million is the overall reported contract, but it is broken down into an $8 million guarantee and opportunities for incentives.
In either case, he is still one of the higher paid tight ends in the NFL, but when it comes to the 2020 statistics in terms of tight end rankings, Gronk was 10th in yards, 19th in receptions, and 7th in touchdowns.
This lack of statistical production (from Gronk standards) had many wondering if this new $10 million deal was just too much. That’s exactly why I wanted to talk about the man and why he is worth every penny, even if his voidable years make the cap more difficult to navigate in the future.
So what’re my reasons for this valuation? Well, let’s get into it.
As Gronk said early on in the year:
Rob Gronkowski: "I'm a blocking tight end. I came here to block, baby."— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) September 25, 2020
While this was something that he may have said jokingly based on his lack of catches early on, there’s actually quite a bit of truth to this.
In fact, it’s my number one reason as to why Gronk is worth what he is being paid, and why he is an invaluable asset that needed to be brought back. He is one of the best blocking tight ends that I’ve ever seen and for the Bucs, it’s like having an extra lineman that can also make highlight reel catches.
As a run blocker, Gronk is absolutely insane. While O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate might be great in the passing game, neither one of them can do what Gronk does to help set up the run.
Let’s look at a block he made in week one against the New Orleans Saints:
The Bucs run what looks like a Duo between Wirfs and Gronkowski here. Typically, you don’t want your tight end one on one with a six-time Pro Bowl defensive end, but it doesn’t really matter when you have Gronk.
His footwork is pretty advanced for that of a tight end and in fact is more akin to that of a lineman here. He takes a slight inside step so that he’s able to get the inside position on Cameron Jordan (94), and then he gets his hands inside and pushes him straight out of the play.
He’s not just a down blocker though, look at this block he makes on the second level against the Washington Football Team in the playoffs:
This run looks to be an inside zone that ends up going for quite a chunk of yardage from Leonard Fournette, a.k.a. Lombardi Lenny. What really helps spring this run though, is the block from Gronk on the linebacker, Cole Holcomb (55).
He’s able to give a slight chip on the line and then seamlessly make his way to the second level to get pretty good position on his assignment. If it weren’t for this block, there’s a good chance that this run only goes for five or six yards.
Ok, enough about run blocking because I could really go on all day about that. Now it’s time to look at his pass blocking.
While the Buccaneers offensive line did play pretty well through the season, and especially the playoffs, that didn’t stop them from inserting Gronk to act as a sixth lineman on certain pass plays.
Let’s take a look at my favorite game from him as a pass blocker, and it’s mainly my favorite because of who he’s able to keep at bay:
On this play-action pass here from the Bucs, they ask Gronk to go one on one with defensive rookie of the year, Chase Young (99). From an X’s and O’s standpoint, putting any tight end on a pass-rusher of this caliber is probably not a good idea.
However, Gronk handles it very well. While the play fake does slow down Young a bit, he still has the ability to make up for the initial delay with his speed.
Luckily for Brady, Gronk makes a fantastic block and even shows off his quick lateral mobility. As Young attempts to find an opening to make his movement towards the quarterback, Gronk slides with him and walls him off the whole way.
Big Play Ability
While blocking is definitely a well-known strength for Gronk, even more well known is his ability to make big plays. However, after he came out of retirement, a lot of people thought that he would be a shell of his former self.
Despite this being slightly true based on his drop in statistical production, he is still more than capable of making a big play. Let’s take a look at a play against the Los Angeles Chargers:
Gronk just runs a fade route here and Brady just lays up a jump ball with all the confidence in the world that his guy is going to come up with it. For good reason too, I mean, how many times did we see him make plays like this in New England?
Kyzir White (44) is in perfect position to make the interception, but he just gets the ball snatched out of his arms by Gronk. This play really shows that despite the fact that he looks like he’s running with cement shoes on, he can still make highly contested catches for big plays when they matter most.
While he is not the Rob Gronkowski of the 2010’s, he is still one of the better tight ends in the league when it comes to blocking and making contested catches. His numbers might be down, but with the talent that Tampa Bay brings on the field (and the lack of tight end involvement in an Arians offense), it’s hard to believe that he would’ve put up his usual numbers even if he were in his prime.
In the running game, he offers so much as a blocker that he may have been worth the contract just for that. His ability to block defensive ends and linebackers one on one is a skill that many tight ends just don’t have the talent to master.
If the Super Bowl was any indication of what Gronk can still do, then we should be in for another wild ride in 2021.
What do you think of Gronk? Do you think he was worth the contract? Let us know in the comments below!