Well, the last month and change has certainly made this Patriots fan feel like the sky is falling. Tom Brady left to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when free agency opened. Now, after a few weeks of rumors that never felt like they had any legs, Rob Gronkowski asked the Patriots to trade him to Tampa so he can play with Brady again and was granted his request. The two best and most beloved players of the franchise's dynasty era are both gone.
But this is ultimately a gift for the Patriots. Because Gronkowski had a year left on his deal before he hung up the cleats, New England held his rights and the Bucs had to acquire him via trade. It will sting something fierce seeing the first Brady-Gronk touchdown in the new Bucs threads, but Gronkowski was never going to come back and play for the Patriots. He was clearly run down by the end of 2018 and went out with a Super Bowl title. The common reasoning (that has been proven right) is that he would only come back to play with his guy Brady, and there was nary an indication he was planning to do that under the watch of Bill Belichick.
Now, New England got a free asset in the form of a fourth-round pick from the Bucs after the trade was finalized. Most fans were hoping and expecting more given the complete lack of leverage both the Bucs and Gronkowski had, but the deal is done. Ultimately, getting anything out of this was a big win -- especially considering the, uh, dire state of the tight end position in Foxborough right now. They need all the picks they can get to retool a team looking for a new identity for the first time this century.
Once again, Belichick has literally turned something into nothing. This is actually the biggest favor Gronkowski could have done for the team on his way out. Getting a pick in return for the future Hall of Famer leaves them in a better position than they were before he unretired, even if the return ends up marginal depending on who they select. A sad day for the New England population, to be sure, but a potentially lucrative one for the Patriots.