|National Football League|
Pats All-Pro TE Gronkowski gets $54 million deal
By BARRY WILNER
NEW YORK (AP) All-Pro Rob Gronkowski agreed Friday to a $54 million deal with the New England Patriots, the richest contract for a tight end in NFL history.
The six-year deal includes $18.17 million guaranteed. It is a stunning move by the team for a player entering just his third NFL season, but the Patriots recognized the game-breaking skills of the record-setting Gronkowski.
"This is a rare deal," said Drew Rosenhaus, Gronkowski's agent. "Thanks to Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick."
Gronkowski set a league record for the position with 17 touchdown catches in 2011. He also had a record 1,327 yards, and made 90 receptions.
Gronkowski is coming off left ankle surgery, an injury that slowed him in New England's loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
"He broke every record last year and it's just a remarkable story," Gronkowski's father, Gord, said Friday. "And you know, there in Arizona we didn't know if was going to play any more when he had his back surgery (in college). And now, it's a great story. He's out there now and everything's well and he's ripping it up."
Gronkowski, selected in the second round in 2010, had two more years left on his contract. Yet New England ripped it up, or rather added on to his rookie deal so Gronkowski will be with the team through the 2019 season.
The 23-year-old Gronkowski was virtually uncoverable while healthy last season. He combined with fellow second-year tight end Aaron Hernandez and slot receiver Wes Walker - the league's leading pass catcher - to help New England go 13-3 and score an AFC-high 513 points.
Gord Gronkowski said the big money won't change his son in the least.
"No, Rob is Rob. He still to this day will wear jeans that he had in high school, and shirts that he had in high school," he said. "We're not flashy people. And that's Rob all the way. The money, it's nice, don't get me wrong, but it will not change him. Rob will always be Rob the goofball."
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo contributed to this story.
Updated June 8, 2012