FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When it comes to contractual dealings, the New England Patriots are often shrewd with how they use leverage to their advantage. Specifically, when they have leverage on their side, many agents have relayed that it can be challenging to get the team to budge.
This is a big part of what makes Tuesday's revised contract for tight end Rob Gronkowski so notable.
The Patriots weren't obligated to do anything. In addition, Gronkowski is coming off an injury-shortened season that further lessened his own leverage.
Yet the club revised the 2017 portion of Gronkowski's deal -- giving him a chance to increase his earnings based on playing time or performance -- without touching the final two years of 2018 and 2019, per agent Drew Rosenhaus (and as reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter).
That's a rare precedent for the team to set at a time when it had all the leverage on its side.
But at the same time, high-ranking club officials might counter by saying Gronkowski is a rare player who has regularly played by the team's rules when it comes to his contract (e.g. no holdouts, no public discord etc.). When healthy, he's the game's top tight end, and he is also a difference-maker in the community as one of the most popular Patriots of all-time.
So on the surface, this appears to be the often-hard-line-at-the-negotiating-table Patriots doing Gronkowski a solid, while possibly looking to keep relations solid in the coming years if the sides revisit an extension past 2019.
We often hear about teams asking players to take pay cuts, but it's a bit rare to see this: A club willingly revising a rehabbing player's contract that has three years remaining on it to give him a chance to earn more money.
It's another layer to the often unique dynamics between the Patriots and Gronkowski.