New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowksi has retired, as announced on Sunday via Gronkowski's personal instagram.
Rob Gronkowski is going out on top, announcing his retirement after winning his 3rd Super Bowl.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 24, 2019
Gronkowski is the Patriots all-time leader in touchdowns scored, and he's tied for the 2nd-most receiving TDs in NFL Postseason history. pic.twitter.com/iCJFreLHnC
However, even as the Hall of Famer-to-be rides off into the sunset, it doesn’t appear that the Patriots' Super Bowl odds will be impacted. NFL betting lines listed NE at +750 beforehand and remain at that number after the news.
Patriots Have Won Without Him
One aspect that’s being overlooked with Gronk is the fact that the Patriots have had to live without Gronk for long stretches in the past and they’ve played well even when he wasn’t in the lineup. This is a player who hadn’t played a full 16-game season since 2011, although he did play 13 games last year and 14 the year before that.
Gronk did not have a huge impact on the Patriots 2018 campaign as he pulled in just 682 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the regular season. Pro Football Focus graded the Top 100 players of the 2018 season and he wasn’t even on the list.
Tight ends like Jared Cook, Mark Andrews and Evan Engram graded better at the position. However, Gronk was a big factor in the Super Bowl as somewhat of a last hurrah but for the most part, he looked like he was fading throughout the regular season.
And remember that in 2016, the Patriots won the Super Bowl without him. Gronk only played eight games that season, yet the Patriots still ended up winning Super Bowl LI. Journeyman Martellus Bennett stepped up and had 701 receiving yards and seven touchdowns that season.
Patriots Will Compensate
Given that we’ve seen the Patriots survive and thrive without him, the oddsmakers are under the impression that they’ll be able to find a suitable replacement. They could look to free agency and see kick the tires on someone like Austin Seferian-Jenkins or maybe Richard Rodgers, or they could look to the NFL Draft.
The top prospects available there are two Iowa players, T.J. Hockeson and Noah Fant, followed by Irv Smith from Alabama. Hockenson and Fant could be off the board by the time the Patriots draft in the first round as both are projected to be in the Top 15 or Top 20 range.
However, someone like Smith, who has a good pedigree with the Crimson Tide, could be a good option.
Patriots Must Rebuild Their Receiving Corps
The Gronk retirement exacerbates the Patriots problem but we all knew the bottom line heading into the offseason: they need to rebuild their receiving corps. Gronk was already fading, Josh Gordon is still suspended and Cordarrelle Patterson left in free agency.
This is a unit that was already a couple bricks short of a load – as they have been for a few seasons now – with Julian Edelman doing too much. They’ll need to replenish with draft picks, find a tight end and hope Gordon gets reinstated (and somehow stays on the straight and narrow).
At the same time, the Patriots just won the Super Bowl with Gronk in the twilight of his career and Edelman carrying a group of waiver-wire scraps at the position. It seems like things can only get better for them, which is why the oddsmakers are unfazed by the loss of Gronk.