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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Offseason

After tough year, Gronk coming alive at right time for Pats

Tue Jan 22 7:32pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer

Players: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Sony Michel

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.''

Player Notes
Charles Clay Feb 19 12:20pm ET

The Arizona Cardinals are signing free-agent tight end Charles Clay to a one-year deal worth up to $3.25 million on Tuesday, according to a source. The deal includes a $350,000 signing bonus. Clay was an afterthought in Buffalo's offense the last couple years and had only 21 catches for 184 yards and no scores in 13 games last season. He's unlikely to produce much more in Arizona with Ricky Seals-Jones and veteran Jermaine Gresham also in the fold with a young quarterback still learning the speed of the NFL. Clay won't even be worth drafting in most fantasy leagues.

From RotoBaller

Calais Campbell Feb 19 11:50am ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars exercised the 2019 options for defensive end Calais Campbell, defensive end Lerentee McCray and safety Cody Davis. Campbell has been a Pro Bowl selection the last two years with the Jaguars and has accumulated 25 sacks in that time frame. He'll enter his 12th season in 2019 and had a franchise-record 14.5 sacks in 2017. He became the first player in team history to have back-to-back double-digit sacks when he registered 10.5 quarterback takedowns last season. Campbell is a four-time Pro Bowler and is certainly an IDP force.

From RotoBaller

Austin Seferian-Jenkins Feb 19 11:50am ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars declined the 2019 option for tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on Tuesday, making him a free agent. He started the first five games of the season and caught 11 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown before missing the final 11 games with a core muscle injury. His best year came in 2017 with the Jets when he had 50 catches for 357 yards and three touchdowns. Between injuries and off-field issues, teams are unlikely to be knocking the door down to sign ASF this offseason.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Rodgers Feb 19 3:03am ET

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will not be asked to run a dramatically different offense than the one he has operated for most of his career, according to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. 'When you take a guy like Aaron Rodgers, who is a very good football player, I mean, he's kind of one of those guys where you can kind of pretty much do a lot of everything. I think a lot of it is going to carry over. I think some of the language will be different but it's going to be a lot of the same premises for him,' Hackett told PackersNews.com.

Fantasy Spin: Rodgers is unlikely to be the overall QB1 in drafts this summer following the emergence of Patrick Mahomes, but he'll come off the board shortly thereafter as the QB2 or QB3. It will also be interesting to see how receptive the 35-year-old will be to the schemes of new head coach Matt LaFleur and Hackett, although it's hard to imagine he'll drop off considering how vanilla Mike McCarthy had become with his play-calling in recent years.

Le'Veon Bell Feb 19 12:43am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell is unlikely to receive a franchise or transition tag from the team, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

C.J. Mosley Feb 19 12:33am ET

Impending free-agent LB C.J. Mosley and the Baltimore Ravens are reportedly optimistic they will agree to a long-term contract before the March 5 deadline for franchise tags, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley.

Odell Beckham Jr. Feb 18 11:13pm ET

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. is believed to be a trade target for the San Francisco 49ers this offseason, according to ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio.

Fantasy Spin: It is not known if Beckham will be available this offseason, but the 49ers likely will look to add a No. 1 receiver during the offseason. Beckham will be a No. 1 fantasy receiver no matter where he plays in 2019.

Earl Thomas Feb 18 11:03pm ET

Seattle Seahawks impending free-agent FS Earl Thomas may not be an option for the Dallas Cowboys if he is looking for a lucrative contract this offseason because the team will need to sign DE DeMarcus Lawrence, QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR Amari Cooper and CB Byron Jones to long-term contracts over the next year or so, in the opinion of SI.com's Albert Breer.

Jimmy Garoppolo Feb 18 11:00pm ET

The San Francisco Giants gave the sense that they'd be interested in trading for New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as the season ended, and that sense still persists halfway into February. They've had real interest in OBJ for almost a year, but the question is whether the Giants would actually consider trading him after signing him to a big extension last fall. San Fran holds the second and 36th overall picks of this year's draft. The Niners are looking to bolster their receiving corps after Marquise Goodwin failed to live up to expectations as the No. 1 wideout in 2018. The Steelers' Antonio Brown could be a target, too, but he comes with a lot of baggage and the 49ers might prefer Beckham. OBJ is younger and has just as much talent as Brown, and a move to the bay area with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan would make Beckham even more appealing as an elite WR1.

From RotoBaller

Ezekiel Ansah Feb 18 10:13pm ET

Detroit Lions impending free-agent DE Ziggy Ansah could re-sign with the Lions depending on how he is physically this offseason, according to general manager Bob Quinn.

LeGarrette Blount Feb 18 10:03pm ET

Detroit Lions impending free-agent TE Levine Toilolo, TE Luke Willson, RB LeGarrette Blount and DT Ricky Jean-Francois are all expected to hit the free-agent market this offseason.

Romeo Okwara Feb 18 10:03pm ET

Detroit Lions restricted free-agent DE Romeo Okwara is expected to receive a tender offer this offseason.

Derrius Guice Feb 18 9:33pm ET

Washington Redskins RB Derrius Guice (knee) is able to sprint in a straight line but is still not able to do any lateral movements at full speed yet. He also wants to build the strength in his legs over the next few months.

Fantasy Spin: Guice was the team's starting running back last season but missed most of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He may have to share playing time with Adrian Peterson in 2019 if Peterson re-signs with the team. Guice can be a No. 2 or No. 3 fantasy back if he receives most of the playing time.

Robbie Gould Feb 18 8:13pm ET

San Francisco 49ers impending free-agent PK Robbie Gould said he is looking to sign at least a three-year contract this offseason.

Frank Gore Feb 18 8:13pm ET

Miami Dolphins running backs coach Eric Studesville said he is not sure if impending free-agent RB Frank Gore will receive a contract offer from the Dolphins this offseason.

Fantasy Spin: Gore had a solid season in 2018 with 722 yards but failed to record a rushing touchdown. It is not known if he will be able to find a starting job this offseason but would be a good No. 2 running back for a team. He will have some fantasy value in standard leagues if he finds a good situation.

Kalen Ballage Feb 18 7:53pm ET

Miami Dolphins RB Kalen Ballage was impressive during his rookie season but still has room to grow, according to running backs coach Eric Studesville. 'He's a big, physical body,' Studesville said. 'He can run. He's athletic. He's got a lot of growth to do as far as seeing and recognizing things. His work ethic is tremendous. He's got speed for a big man.'

Fantasy Spin: Ballage rushed for 191 yards and one touchdown in limited playing time this past season but could be a contender for the starting running back job in 2019. He has a chance to be a No. 3 or No. 4 fantasy running back depending on his role.

Stephen Gostkowski Feb 18 7:33pm ET

New England Patriots impending free-agent PK Stephen Gostkowski will be a candidate for the franchise tag if the two sides are not able to agree to a long-term extension over the next few weeks.

Trey Flowers Feb 18 7:23pm ET

New England Patriots impending free-agent OT Trent Brown and DE Trey Flowers likely will not be candidates for the franchise tag because it is believed the team probably would think the franchise tag salaries would be too high for the players, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Mike Reiss.

David Irving Feb 18 6:13pm ET

Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent DT David Irving is not expected to be retained, according to a source.

Calais Campbell Feb 18 5:23pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell had his $12 million option for 2019 exercised Monday, Feb. 18. Options for LB Lerentee McCray and FS Cody Davis were also picked up. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins did not have his optioned picked up.