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Report: Gronk Likely To Return As long As Brady Does, But...
As Rob Gronkowski weighs his future, sources close to him say he has recently expressed that he is more likely to continue his football career than retire at 28 years old. The star tight end still hasn't made a decision, but despite serious considerations since the end of the season of retiring because of physical and mental fatigue, sources tell ESPN's Jeff Darlington that Gronk is "pretty certain" he'll come back as long as Tom Brady remains with the team.

That said, Darlington was quick to add this bit of positive news comes with a caveat: "Lingering frustrations remain between Gronkowski and HC Bill Belichick, along with others in the Patriots organization, according to sources close to each side," Darlington wrote. "Whether those frustrations on either side will impact Gronkowski's return to the team remains the final piece to this unfinished puzzle. ..."

In case you missed it, Gronkowski told people late in the regular season he was likely to retire due to a combination of the physical toll on his body and because of some mental fatigue from the high-strung culture within the Patriots organization (he was asked about these rumors immediately after the Super Bowl). Nothing has occurred since the end of the season to convince him that is going to change.

Given that, Gronkowski knows he'll need to be ready for a similar toll on his mind and body if he returns in 2018.

For Belichick, since the season's end, sources tell Darlington he has expressed frustration with those close to him about Gronkowski (although the coach hasn't said as much), specifically questioning whether he remains "all-in," a critical aspect of Belichick's blueprint for success.

All of this may explain a report days ago suggesting Gronk could be traded.

Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal, citing a “Belichick-friendly source" wrote: “Once a player makes Belichick start to contemplate life without him, Belichick starts to warm to being without that player. 'He imagines you gone,' (the source) said. The longer Gronkowski goes without saying he’s all in, the chances of him being traded increases, the source said."

Bedard added “everyone” is in an agreement that a reunion with Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco is the most likely scenario for Gronkowski as maybe a makeup for robbing the Patriots in the trade for Garoppolo. The Rams were also floated.

As The Big Lead's Boddy Burak suggests, given that Bedard is especially plugged in with Belichick’s way of thinking, "it would not be astonishing if Gronk is traded soon."

I'm not ready to go that far just yet. There are a lot of moving pieces here.

For starters, the compensation for Gronkowski, who has two years left on his current contract -- and may have only one year of football left in his career -- isn’t clear although's Mike Florio believes the Pats could get a first-round pick for Gronk.

Assuming he doesn’t have long-term value, what could the team receiving him -- and fantasy football owners – expect this year?'s Mike Clay noted in a recent article that Gronkowski has missed 27 percent (26 of 96) of New England's regular-season games over the past six seasons, including at least one each season. Despite all the missed action, Gronkowski sits second among tight ends in fantasy points (Jimmy Graham is first), and he has posted four top-five seasons in the span.

Clay added: "Gronkowski's shaky durability hurts his fantasy value, but his per-game dominance makes him well worth a third-round investment."

I would suggest that in addition to realizing durability is indeed an issue, any team acquiring Gronk would be looking to maximize his value while they can. It's safe to say the opportunities would be there. So assuming he landed in the right spot, expectations would remain high from both the NFL and fantasy perspectives.

Beyond that, what would the timing of such a deal look like?

Per Florio, "Whether it’s the Rams at No. 23, the 49ers at No. 9, or anyone else, the goal would be to acquire the pick not four weeks in advance of the draft but when the pick is on the clock. This would prevent the Patriots from being leapfrogged by a team that successfully guesses its intentions for the pick."

So there we have it. ... I'll continue to watch for more, but be sure to take this for what it is: Speculation.

And speculation tends to increase when there's not much actual news going on.