Rob Gronkowski thinking retirement without new contract in 2019?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots should probably be preparing for life without Rob Gronkowski, or they should be preparing to offer him a new deal.

At least, that’s the sentiment expressed by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who pontificated about Gronk’s thought process looking ahead next season in an appearance on NBC Sports Sunday night.

Last year, following New England’s Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Gronkowski wasn’t ruling out retirement even heading into the 2018 season.

Ultimately, the Patriots worked out an incentive-laden contract that drew him back. But this season’s been a huge disappointment as injuries have once again been a major factor. And Gronkowski isn’t close to meeting some of those incentives, having caught just 29 passes for 448 yards and one touchdown.

As Florio noted Sunday night, Gronkowski might be more inclined to just hang up his cleats than play without a contract that includes a bit more financial security than what he has now.

“I think that will be a factor in his ultimate decision and the fact he had a chance to play somewhere else and didn’t want to, I think there’s a good chance he just walks away after this year unless the Patriots are willing to rip up the last year of that contract and give him some form of security that is not tied to being healthy and producing on the field,” Florio said (h/t WEEI).

The honest truth is that, even when he’s played this year, Gronk hasn’t looked like Gronk — minus the rare feat of greatness he cannot help conjure every once in a while. He looks like a guy who’s hit his peak and is on his way down, not the other way around.

And at 29 years of age, that’s a shame. One wonders what kind of numbers he would have been able to put up if injuries weren’t such a major part of his NFL story.