He did it again, folks. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is a master of his craft.
That craft these days seems to be throwing wild takes about your Bucs at the wall to see how many clicks he can get. And boy is he good at it.
The man has a massive following. And the Bucs are en vogue right now. So naturally if he were to put out hot takes about popular Bucs players, he is going to get eyes on him.
That seems to be the case once again the doozy from this morning.
In it, Florio speculates the Bucs and Rob Gronkowski may not have consummated a contract because Tampa Bay cannot meet Gronkowski’s contract demands. What demands are those? Florio doesn’t assert a specific number that the Gronkowski camp may have floated, but during the piece he does make the following personal assertion.
“Regardless, he should be done with playing for anything less than $15 million per year — especially after the receiver market has skyrocketed toward $30 million.”
Excuse me, what?
That $15 million number is pretty loaded.
Why? It represents the literal top of the market for tight ends. The top AAV (average annual value) for tight ends is $15 million and is held by San Francisco’s Pro Bowler, George Kittle. His current deal is for five years and $75 million. So, is Gronkowski worth the top AAV for his position group as Florio asserts? The answer is no he isn’t.
Why Gronkowski Is Not Worth $15 Million
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
There are a number of reasons why Gronkowski isn’t a $15 million player. First, he is 33 years old. Kittle is 28. A lot of good football occupies that five-year age gap.
But Travis Kelce is the same age as Gronk!
Yes, he is. And he isn’t quite making $15 million per year. Kelce sits at the second highest AAV among tight ends at $14.3 million.
Now that we have established age is a factor in valuation, let’s look at Gronk vs. Kelce. Over the last three playing seasons Kelce has been targeted 415 times. This has resulted in 294 receptions for 3,770 yards and 25 touchdowns.
By comparison Gronkowski has been targeted 238 times. His results on those targets? How about 147 receptions for 2,107 yards and 16 touchdowns. That’s a world of difference. Gronkowski also missed seven games in that span including five this past year. Kelce has missed one.
Injury risk is a real part of contract valuation. I think it is safe to say Gronkowski is not worth as much as Kelce at this point in their careers.
Should The Wide Receiver Market Boost Gronk’s Value?
But Florio uses the booming wide receiver market as a reason why Gronkowski’s value should shoot up. And it is true that wide receivers are signing bigger contracts than ever before. Seven of the top AAV deals for wide receivers were inked just this offseason.
But what Florio doesn’t tell you is that the tight end market is already increasing. Last year the Top 10 tight ends in football by AAV averaged $11.15 million per year. This year that number has risen to $12.59 million. That’s a 13% increase.
Last year the Top 10 AAV wide receivers averaged $19.78 million per year. This year that number has risen to $23.49 million. That’s an increase of 19%. Not that far off. But it is a difference. Do tight ends produce like wide receivers?
The answer to that question is no.
Darnell Mooney and Jaylen Waddle tied for the 10th most targets among wide receivers last year with 140 a piece. The 10th most targeted tight end was Noah Fant with 90. The disparity is clear. But Florio brings up an interesting point. And it is a point many talented tight ends have been trying to make for years, dating back to Jimmy Graham’s days in New Orleans. Take away the positional designations and value them as weapons.
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Okay, let’s apply that to Gronkowski. Last year Gronk was targeted 88 times. Those 88 targets came in an injury-shortened season, but I think that fairly bakes in his age and injury risk.
Who are some wide receivers who had similar targets and what kind of contracts are they signing? A.J. Green just signed a new contract with Arizona after 92 targets last year. His AAV on that deal is $3.5 million. Russell Gage had 94 targets and signed a $10 million AAV deal with the Bucs. Jarvis Landry had 87 targets last year and signed a new deal with the Saints for an AAV of $6 million. And finally, Tim Patrick had 85 targets and got an $11.3 million AAV with the Broncos.
Those four players averaged 89.5 targets, 56.25 catches, 730.5 yards, and 3.5 touchdowns. Gronkowski’s line on his 89 targets? 55 catches, 802 yards, and six scores. So, it’s fair to give him a bump on their AAV’s. But that bump is off of an average of $7.7 million AAV. What range does that put Gronk into? The $8-10 million/year he has been in over the past two years.
Looking Beyond The Box Score
We have established that tight ends aren’t worth the same amount of money as wide receivers from a production standpoint. We have established that valuing Gronk as a weapon similar to receivers still shows that his value is similar to what he has been paid over the past couple of years. But let’s really hammer this point home.
Let’s look at it from a grading standpoint. Our best source of public information from a grading standpoint is Pro Football Focus. According to PFF, Gronkowski was the fourth-best receiving tight end last year. In 2020 he was 16th-best. Average the two and you get 10th-best. It’s a crude valuation, but it’s not far off reality. The 10th-highest paid tight end in the league has an AAV of $10.55 million.
Slice it any way you want, and Florio is completely off-base with his $15 million number. Gronkowski is a very good tight end who is on the wrong side of 30 with injury concerns.
You know how much that is worth in the NFL today? It’s worth about $8-11 million dollars per year which is right in line with what the Bucs have paid him. As for whether the team low-balling him is the reason he hasn’t returned yet, Scott Reynolds’ debunks that myth as well.
Maybe we should revive the show “Mythbusters” and dedicate it to eviscerating each and every terrible Bucs take Florio has. I’m throwing my hat in for episode one.