Patriots expect both Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski to play this year

The fact that Tom Brady hasn’t specifically said that he’ll play this year (unless he has) likely isn’t a big deal. The fact that Rob Gronkowski hasn’t is more significant. In the end, however, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the Patriots expect both players to suit up and play in 2018.

Apart from Gronkowski’s satisfaction or lack thereof with his pay, there’s also a belief that Gronkowski, Brady, and other Patriots continue to be salty about the inexplicable — and still unexplained — benching of cornerback Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl. A full eleven weeks later, coach Bill Belichick still hasn’t shed any light on the decision to use Butler for only one special-teams play and to keep him on the bench even after the Philly offense shredded the New England defense enough to force a change to the dime package during a 30-minute halftime.

It was a different strategy, partly based on some of the team’s more recent high picks not living up to their billing.

n some ways, it seemed like a logical course of action, especially with a 40-year-old quarterback. And, as it turned out, swapping out draft picks for players with a little more experience (Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, Mike Gillislee) did help the five-time champs get back to the big game.

But it doesn’t erase the fact that the all-important cupboard of draft talent is rather thin.

Looking at the big picture, the supply has emptied out in recent years. Whether the picks haven’t panned out or have been traded away for other assets, the Patriots need to make a splash this year. It’s time to replenish the supply of youth.

As drafts go, this is an important reload for Bill Belichick and the organization. Significant losses in free agency, namely left tackle Nate Solder, just heighten the urgency meter.

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