"I’m hoping he breaks the bank," Gronkowski told Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Whenever you see a tight end break the bank, it’s good for the industry. It’s good for the position. You want to see the position grow. I want to see him do whatever he’s got to do, but I don’t make the calls."
As for whether he thinks the Patriots will—or should—bring Bennett back, Gronkowski abstained from offering an opinion, simply saying he has "absolutely nothing to do with the front office."
Bennett, 29, played well for the Patriots in 2016, registering 55 catches for 701 yards and seven touchdowns. He was signed both to complement Gronkowski and to serve as an insurance policy for the talented but oft-injured tight end, and Bennett became the team's No. 1 tight end once Gronkowski was lost for the season in December.
But Bennett, who made $5.2 million last season, is likely looking for a raise.
"I'm going into free agency as a Super Bowl champion," he said on Feb. 5, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. "You know they overpay Super Bowl champions!"
He certainly doesn't seem inclined to take a paycut:
It's hard to blame Bennett in that regard, as his next contract could be his last.
As for the Patriots, Gronkowski's cap hit is set to reach $6.75 million in 2017, $11 million in 2018 and $12 million in 2019, per Spotrac.com. The team will have to decide how much of a financial commitment it wants to make at tight end.
With several other big-name unrestricted free agents to retain, however, including Dont’a Hightower, LeGarrette Blount, Alan Branch and Logan Ryan—not to mention restricted free agent Malcolm Butler—splashing big cash on a second tight end may be deemed superfluous.