Greg Cote

Rob Gronkowski a Dolphin? Won’t happen, right? But it should, and here’s how it could

The Pats’ Rob Gronkowski carries Dolphins safety Reshad Jones into the end zone in a 35-17 New England win over Miami last November in Foxborough, Mass.
The Pats’ Rob Gronkowski carries Dolphins safety Reshad Jones into the end zone in a 35-17 New England win over Miami last November in Foxborough, Mass. AP

Rob Gronkowski a Miami Dolphin? Sweet dreams are made of this, and for about a recent minute, it seemed, well, not entirely impossible.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter, professional spoilsport, has since reported that New England trading receiver Brandin Cooks to the Rams this week assures the Patriots will not be trading Gronk. Which seems logical enough. But when it comes to mercurial Bill Belichick — a gunslinger on trades and bold moves in his old age — ruling anything out is a risk.

Don’t misinterpret this. Am I predicting the NFL’s best tight end (now and of all time) will end up in Miami in a blockbuster pre-draft trade? No. No! I ran the notion by a Dolphins source Wednesday and his reaction was laughter. Clearly, the idea of the snake-bit Dolphins somehow landing Gronkowski is seen as ludicrous in much the same way you wouldn’t expect the pimply nerd to end up marrying the prom queen. These are the Dolphins, who just sank to a dead last No. 32 in ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings on the heel of a dispiriting offseason of departing talent. Things don’t go that right around here. A franchise hogtied by conventional wisdom doesn’t dare reach that high.

Join me on a flight of fancy, though. I would like to explore why Gronk-to-Miami should happen, and how it could ... even as the realist in me knows it almost certainly won’t.

Starting point: The Dolphins desperately need a difference-making impact tight end, after Julius Thomas proved the latest bust in a long Fins parade of low-watt failure at the position. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, coming back from knee surgery, needs more help after losing receiver Jarvis Landry. They should have gone after Jimmy Graham, the ex-Cane, in free agency, but the Packers got him. Gronkowski is an unstoppable nightmare for opponents, a force who caught 69 passes for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns last season and another nine balls for 116 yards and two TDs in the Super Bowl loss to the Eagles.

So why on Earth would the Pats trade him? Speculation arose they might (Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported trade offers) for several reasons. Gronk turns 29 in five weeks and has a fragile history with injuries — awesome when right, but sporadically unavailable. Belichick and the tight end do not have a great relationship, the coach’s authoritarianism often at odds with Gronk’s free spirit. And Belichick famously prefers to get rid of players a year too soon rather than keep them a year too long. With Gronk’s contract up after 2019, Belichick might feel the time is right to make a move.

Belichick is forever letting go of players you thought he should have kept, and seemingly never to his detriment, from Ty Law, Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour to Jimmy Garoppolo, Malcolm Butler and now Cooks. You could toss in Danny Amendola, who signed with the Dolphins because Belichick decided he wasn’t worth keeping.

Shaquille O’Neal and Rob Gronkowski went head-to-head to see who’s a better dancer during Miami Music Week on March 24, 2018. Former NBA star Shaq threw a large party at a secret warehouse location in Wynwood, Miami.

But even if New England traded Gronk it would never be within the AFC East, right? Perhaps. Maybe that’s why CBSSports.com, in a story on most-likely landing spots for Gronk, listed the Saints, Rams, 49ers, Cowboys and Browns even though Miami needs a tight end as badly as any. But Belichick possesses the arrogance of brilliance. He has won the division a record nine years in a row. He still has Tom Brady. He is reloading with four draft picks acquired in trades, including a second first-round pick obtained for Cooks. Do you honestly think he’s so worried about the Dolphins to not trade with them if the deal was right? Please. (Remember, giving Gronk to a division rival also means taking draft picks from said rival.)

And if you say Gronk would not fit the Dolphins’ supposed move to change the “culture” by bringing in better locker room guys, forget that noise. Yes, you’d be putting a “Let’s Party, Bro!” dude in proximity to South Beach. But Gronkowski by all accounts is a real pro and well-liked teammate. Heck, he just surprise-visited a Pats fans in the hospital awaiting an organ transplant!

The NFL star joked around and posed for pictures with Miami Beach cops in South Beach on Wednesday.

OK. So what would it take to get Gronk? It could be a buyer’s market. His openly pondering retirement and his contract expiring after two more seasons drive his value down. So do his age and injury history. The football literati speculates it might not even take a first-round pick to get him. Might Miami land him for a second-round pick and one or two of its three fourth-rounders? Or maybe it would take a swap of first-rounders, with the Pats getting Miami’s 11th overall and maybe a fourth and the Dolphins getting Gronk and New England’s 23rd overall. Would you make that deal? Sure would be worth exploring, assuming Gronkowski recommits to playing and his medical exam was a go.

Again, the idea of any of this actually happening is remote, yes, as we hope we have made clear.

It sure is fun to daydream, though.

It’s more fun than the reality of looking at what a 6-10 team has done this offseason to improve and worrying about the answer.

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