About a month ago, I wondered:
At that time, it was more of a casual curiosity for a guy who has had at least eight surgeries in recent years and who also happens to be preparing to play on a newly repaired knee after ACL/MCL surgery.
With this afternoon’s shocking tweet courtesy of Fox Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer, my level of curiosity has gone from wonderment to bewilderment.
Breaking: the Patriots have agreed to parameters of a trade to send Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to the Bucs for a pick and TE Tim Wright— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) August 26, 2014
Ignoring for the time being that Pats coach Bill Belichick can be heartless with his roster transactions, whether because of age, salary, productivity, or a combination of the three (Don’t forget, Vince Wilfork was nearly a former New Englander a few months back), or the fact the Patriots now have an even thinner offensive line to protect a future Hall of Fame quarterback who was sacked 40 times in 2013, this anticipated trade speaks to a number of questions concerning Gronkowski.
Are the Pats tired of watching their all-world tight end forced either off the field or onto it as a shell of himself, as has occurred each of the last three seasons?
Is Belichick looking at a present-day depth chart that, after Gronkowski, features Michael Hoomanawanui and Steve Maneri and (rightfully) wondering where his team’s production will come from? Gronkowski may not be ready for the season opener on Sept. 7 in Miami, Hoomanawanui has also dealt with injuries of late, and Maneri, until recently, used to be a lineman.
Are the Patriots confident in Gronkowski’s ability to stay healthy (how could you be?), but longing for the days of a dynamic two tight end formation?
According to those who have followed him closely, soon to be former Bucs tight end Tim Wright is athletic, receiver-like and, in a perfect world (on the field, and that can’t be stressed enough) may represent Aaron Hernandez. Unlike Hernandez, Wright isn't said to be much of a run-blocker.
The undrafted product out of Rutgers caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie in a full 16 game slate last season. According to ESPN, Wright's 73 percent reception percentage ranks fifth among tight ends with a minimum of 50 targets last season. He’s 24 and playing on short money, plus you know Belichick received a glowing endorsement from Wright’s previous college and NFL head coach, his good pal Greg Schiano.
Away from Gronkowski, are the Pats worried this year’s club will again be offensively challenged more often than not if Gronkowski gets hurt? Consistent production is no sure thing from a single receiving option on the Patriots, including Julian Edelman. It’s easy to forget after Edelman did his best concussion-less Wes Welker impression in 2013 that he’d previously had trouble staying healthy.
On paper, this move probably speaks more to freeing up some of the salary due to a durable and tough, but declining, six-time Pro Bowler in Logan Mankins than it does to expectations surrounding Gronkowski.
So to be clear, Mankins will count $4m this year and $4m next year on the #Patriots cap. The move frees up some money— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) August 26, 2014
Still, it’s natural to wonder:
Can an aging Tom Brady be the same QB and guide a potentially brittle offense if it loses Gronkowski again? The right move in the short-term may very well have been in acquiring a guy named Wright - as long as Brady has someone on the left side to keep him upright.
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