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Ben Volin

Should Patriots redo Gronkowski and Edelman deals?

It might behoove the Patriots to take care of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to head off any possible discontent.
It might behoove the Patriots to take care of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to head off any possible discontent.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

This originally appeared in this week’s Sunday Football Notes.

The Patriots have been quiet in free agency because they already have their front-end players under contract. They also are saving up to re-sign players whose contracts expire after the 2016 season: Malcolm Butler, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Logan Ryan, Jabaal Sheard, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, and Duron Harmon on the defensive side alone. Whew.

But the Patriots might also be saving up to deal with a couple of their offensive stars. They hooked up Tom Brady last week with a $28 million signing bonus. Now it might behoove them to take care of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman to head off any possible discontent.

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To be clear, while Gronkowski has mentioned via Twitter that he is “underpaid,” Edelman hasn’t uttered one peep about his contract situation. But when Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan are set to make more money than Edelman in 2016, and middle-of-the-road receivers such as Mohamed Sanu are getting $7 million signing bonuses and $14 million guaranteed, Edelman likely can’t help but feel a tinge of disrespect over his current deal.

Edelman is entering the third year of a four-year, $17 million contract he signed before the 2014 season. His base salary this year is $2.5 million. If everything goes perfectly — he plays in all 16 games, catches seven touchdown passes, or has more than 1,057 receiving yards — he can make as much as $4 million. Amendola, meanwhile, is set to make $5 million this year with an extra $500,000 in incentives. Hogan, per reports, could make around $5 million this year, too.

So the Patriots could have a situation where their best and most productive receiver not only is underpaid compared with the rest of the league — top receivers make more than $14 million — but is also making the least among his own team’s top three receivers.

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Gronkowski, meanwhile, is vastly underpaid compared with the other elite offensive weapons in the NFL, even after the Patriots just paid Gronkowski a $6 million option bonus. He is set to make $2.25 million in base salary this year, with another $750,000 in bonuses, for a maximum total compensation of $9 million this year. And Gronkowski is due to make just $5 million next year.

Even if Gronkowski and Edelman don’t want to rock the boat with the Patriots, they have some leverage now. The Patriots’ offense fell apart after Edelman broke his foot last year, and Gronk’s impact has been established.

Edelman and Gronkowski are still young and healthy, yet both have a lengthy injury history that could derail their careers at any moment. And NFL teams never hesitate to squeeze their players for paycuts or outright releases the moment the players’ production doesn’t match their contracts. If ever there were a time for Edelman and Gronkowski to use their leverage to get more money — by skipping offseason workouts or threatening a holdout, for example — this offseason is it.


Follow Ben Volin on Twitter @BenVolin.