Gronk deal could be steal for Pats

Rob Gronkowski's elite abilities make him a steal, even at a record price. Mark L. Baer/US Presswire

What in the world is going on in New England? A team long known for playing hardball at the negotiating table (see: Welker, Wes and Mankins, Logan) has not only opened the vault early for a player with two seasons left on his rookie contract, it has done it by signing a 23-year-old to a record-setting deal -- at tight end of all positions.

Five years ago this contract would have been unthinkable in the NFL. But you know what? The pass-happy New England Patriots may be laughing all the way to the bank, along with Rob Gronkowski and his $54 million.