In a no-brainer move, the New England Patriots have reportedly picked up the $10 million option bonus on tight end Rob Gronkowski's contract for 2016.
The 26-year-old is due a $2.25 million base salary and counts for $6.62 million against the Patriots' 2016 cap, per Spotrac. That's relative pittance for one of the game's best playmakers. Healthy for the second straight season, he made 72 receptions for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers ranked at or among the highest at his position.
"I don't know what's better," Jets coach Todd Bowles said of trying to cover Gronkowski, per Dom Cosentino of NJ.com. "I've seen people play in space and bump him. Nothing has really worked. You've just got to pick and choose your poison against him and just try and slow him down. I don't think you can stop him. You just try to limit what he can do some if you can do that."
Gronkowski has posted double-digit touchdowns in five of his six NFL seasons. He's been a Pro Bowler four times and earned four first-team All-Pro selections, including each of the last two seasons. Football Outsiders' DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) metric ranked him second at his position, behind only Tyler Eifert.
The Patriots have Gronkowski under contract through the 2019 season. Rapoport indicated the team picking up the option bonus is a precursor to extension talks, so it's unclear how the two sides will choose to move forward. He'll carry a base salary of $4.25 million in 2017; it may behoove New England to wait until next offseason to really ramp up talks.
Gronkowski's contract doesn't become onerous from a cap standpoint until the final two seasons, where he'll have base salaries totaling $17 million. The Patriots will probably need to lower his cap hold at that point. Any negotiations now would be more of a showing of good faith between the team and its best offensive weapon.
As it stands now, it might actually be smarter to wait. Gronkowski has a massive injury history, and with four years remaining on his deal, there's no real reason to rush.