Tue Jan 22 7:32pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) runs against Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller (23) during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Daniel Sorensen (49) during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Even as Rob Gronkowski turned in a vintage performance with his big grabs down the stretch in the AFC championship game, the veteran Patriots tight end also did plenty of dirty work.
Gronk the blocker? The label didn't fit in the past. But this season, one of the best receiving tight ends in NFL history and Tom Brady's longtime favorite target made some big contributions to the Patriots' rejuvenated running game.
''Whatever coaches call, whatever plays we call ... blocking, receiving, no matter what is, whatever play is called, just got to go out there and do your job,'' Gronkowski said.
It was an underwhelming season statistically for Gronkowski, who contemplated retirement after last year's Super Bowl loss. He appeared in 13 games as he fought through nagging back and ankle injuries, finishing with 47 catches for 682 yards and three touchdowns.
But Gronk did more of the things that don't appear on the stat sheet. And he's fine with that as he heads into a Super Bowl matchup with the Rams eyeing the third ring in his nine-year career.
Brady said Gronkowski's ability as a blocker might be the most underrated part of his game.
''He's one of the most dominant blocking tight ends in the league,'' Brady said. ''He's a threat any time he's out there.''
One of his biggest plays in the Patriots' overtime victory over Kansas City for the AFC title came in the run game.
After the Chiefs took their first lead, New England responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Gronkowski pushing aside Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston on fourth-and-inches and allowing Sony Michel to jog into the end zone from 10 yards out.
Gronk's future beyond this season is once again an open question. He will be entering the final season of a six-year contract in 2019 and is scheduled to make about $9 million. Before the season, he acknowledged he would like to rework the deal, and he skipped a voluntary offseason workout. He later had bonus incentives added to his contract.
He'd be missed if he doesn't return. After a quiet performance in the Patriots' divisional playoff win over the Chargers, Gronkowski was targeted a season-high 11 times against the Chiefs, catching six passes for 79 yards and coming up with big grabs down the stretch.
Brady was 5 for 5 on third down in the fourth quarter and overtime, with two of those passes going to Gronkowski. Those catches, for 25 and 15 yards, set up the go-ahead and game-winning touchdowns.
It was nothing new for the 29-year-old Gronk, who entered the season with 75 postseason receptions - the most by a tight end in NFL history. In the regular season, he has the most TD catches thrown by Brady to any player (78).
The Rams' defense was the second-worst in the league this season, giving up 1,075 yards receiving to opposing tight ends. It should mean plenty of opportunities for Gronkowski to show the combination of size, strong hands and agility that has made him a matchup nightmare throughout his career.
His chemistry with Brady means he knows the ball could always come his way, no matter what kind of game he's having.
''You've got to have confidence in each other,'' Gronkowski said. ''That's what practice is all about. That's knowing each other is all about. Knowing that when it comes to those situations and you've got to put that ball up, I've got to make the play. ... That's the trust that we have with each other. We love playing with each other. Just a bond we have, to go out there and always be on the same page.''
July 5th: Tightend Preview
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III thinks Denver's backfield in 2020 will be explosive with himself and Phillip Lindsay. Gordon realizes that both he and Lindsay will be fighting to be the No. 1 back, regardless of the balance in the play-calling. "I hope it's electric, man, just cause it's crazy that his numbers [are what they are]; I just had a season with Austin Ekeler phenomenal player. Their game is about the same. And I think Lindsay is a great, phenomenal back," Gordon said. The former Bolts back acknowledged that the two will be competing for top-dog duties, but the Broncos didn't sign Gordon in free agency for him to be the No. 2. The two-time Pro Bowler should see plenty of work and is an RB2 with upside in an offense more suited to his strengths.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson ended last year as one of the league's most dominant players. He finished with 3,127 passing yards and 36 touchdowns (six interceptions) while maintaining an exceptional 66.1 completion percentage. He also added 1,206 yards and seven additional scores on the ground and finished second with 867 rushing yards before contact. Though it is reasonable to think that the 23-year-old will regress this season, analyst Marcellus Wiley believes the opposite. While conversing on Fox Sports "Speak for Yourself," the former defensive end stated that he feels the young signal-caller will be "greater than great" in 2020, which is a scary declaration considering his statistical output through 15 games last season. He also indicated that a second consecutive MVP award is on the horizon. Whether fantasy managers agree or not, they should expect Jackson to be the first or second quarterback off the draft boards for the upcoming campaign.
The San Francisco 49ers have signed journeyman cornerback Jamar Taylor and waived cornerback Teez Tabor in a deep roster move on Monday. Taylor has bounced around the league for seven years, and he's likely to serve as nothing more than some depth at DB on the off chance that the team needs it. With COVID-19 cutting a swath through rosters this season though, depth players may find themselves in starring roles if push comes to shove. Hopefully, Taylor won't have to be leaned on very hard.
The Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes agreed to a 10-year contract extension on Monday, according to a league source. The deal that ties Mahomes to Kansas City through the 2031 season will be the richest contract in NFL history. Last year's Super Bowl MVP had two years remaining on his contract, so it's essentially a 12-year contract in total. Mahomes' extension is worth over $400 million in total, and sources think it will be tied to a percentage of the salary cap for each season. Cha ching. Mahomes cashes in after winning MVP in 2018 with 50 regular season touchdowns and leading the Chiefs to a Super Bowl title last season. His dual-threat ability makes him extremely dangerous on the football field in KC's explosive offense. Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are the top two fantasy signal-callers in 2020.
Detroit Lions WR Kenny Golladay recorded 17 receptions of at least 25 yards during the 2019 season.
Fantasy Spin: Golladay was successful last season even though he had to play with several quarterbacks. He has a chance to improve on his stats with a full season with Matthew Stafford. He should be at least a No. 2 receiver in all fantasy leagues and will be a weekly starting option.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes agreed to terms on a 10-year contract extension with the Chiefs Monday, July 6, that will run through the 2031 season, according to sources. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the contract with be the richest contract in NFL history.
Fantasy Spin: Mahomes is coming off his first championship and is only 24 years old, so the Chiefs locked him up for most of the rest of his career. He is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and is a must-start in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers CB Teez Tabor (undisclosed) was waived Monday, July 6, with a Non-Football Injury designation.
Free-agent CB Jamar Taylor (Falcons) signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers Monday, July 6. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Adam Schefter is reporting the Chiefs and QB Patrick Mahomes have reached an agreement on a 10-year contract extension that ties him to Kansas City through the 2031 season.
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase was looking to trade safety Marcus Maye prior to the start of last season, and general manager Joe Douglas has been fielding offers for him for almost a year. Maye is in the final year of his rookie deal and isn't believed to be in the team's long-term plans, especially since the Jets would prefer to extend All-Pro safety Jamal Adams instead. New York also selected safety Ashtyn Davis in the third round this year. The 27-year-old had 65 combined tackles and an interception over a full season in 2019, but he has only four interceptions and half a sack in his three seasons in the NFL. You can ignore Maye in IDP leagues.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku demanded a trade from the team several days ago but the team may not be so quick to accommodate him. ESPN's Josina Anderson tweeted on Monday that she believes that Njoku is still a big part of the Browns' plans going forward. Anderson went on to state that the Chicago Bears have been monitoring the situation, signaling that they may be a potential trade partner if Njoku is moved. The Browns signed Austin Hooper earlier in the offseason, prompting Njoku to want out of town.
Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku remains a big part of the Browns' offense, but a source said that Njoku has wanted out.
Fantasy Spin: Njoku is coming off of a lost season, and now he has Austin Hooper in town fresh off of a career year. So Njoku is blocked to a degree, but he might be a lottery ticket TE2 late in drafts.
San Francisco 49ers George Kittle remains without a new contract. While some reports suggest that the 26-year-old could land a deal that would pay him around $17 million per year, Matt Barrows from the Athletic was the latest to chime in, with the reporter hinting that Kittle would instead receive $13 million per year. The 2017 fifth-round pick has been one of the most consistent producers for the team over the years and finished the 2019 regular season with 85 receptions for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns. Fantasy managers should prepare for him to be the first or second tight end selected in fantasy drafts for 2020.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs could be in line for a breakout year, a sentiment that was echoed by ESPN's Mike Clay, who predicted the sophomore back to total 1,400 yards from scrimmage this season. The 22-year-old finished 2019 with 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns but was hindered by a shoulder issue that cost him three games while impacting him in others. With the Raiders having some potent weapons on the receiving end, things may open up more for Jacobs in 2020. Look for him to fly off the draft boards within the first round the majority of fantasy drafts for the upcoming campaign.
New York Giants DE Leonard Williams is seeking $18-$20 million in a long-term extension. The Giants are unwilling to approach that price tag.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon could lead the league in rushing this season, according to MSN's Matt Johnson. Johnson stated that with the team's enhanced offensive line and the arrival of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, he wouldn't be surprised if the 23-year-old accumulated nearly 1,400 yards on the ground this year. Mixon finished last season with 1,137 yards and five touchdowns off of a career-high 278 attempts. He also pulled in 35 catches for three additional scores and ranked seventh in rushing yards after contact. Fantasy managers will want to plan accordingly as he should be one of the first backs off the boards in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley could be in line for his best season yet under new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. According to NFL Network's Kimberly Jones, the team "may run an offense that's similar to the Cowboy's scheme under Garrett." Dallas was ranked in the top 10 in rush attempts under Garrett between 2016 and 2019, during which time, Ezekiel Elliott won two rushing titles. Despite being hindered by a high ankle sprain last season, Barkley still ran for over 1,000 yards and had six touchdowns in 13 appearances while also catching 51 receptions for an additional two scores. Look for him to come off the board within the first three picks in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign, especially in PPR formats.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers accumulated 483 passing yards on screen plays in 2019 - the second-highest mark in the league - according to Pro Football Focus.
New England Patriots QB Brian Hoyer finds himself in an 'interesting spot' following the addition of Cam Newton, and ESPN's Mike Reiss suggests he could be the odd man out if Newton is healthy and Jarrett Stidham shows well in training camp.