Rob Gronkowski Patriots
There is speculation that Rob Gronkowski might not be on the New England Patriots in the 2018 NFL season. Pictured: Gronkowski walks off the field after his team's 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4, 2018 in Minneapolis. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Rob Gronkowski will probably return to the New England Patriots for the 2018 season, though there are questions regarding his immediate NFL future. Even though the league’s best tight end is still under contract and in the prime of his career, there at least appears to be the possibility that the 28-year-old won’t be a member of the AFC champs’ Week 1 roster.

Rumors of retirement and even a possible trade have been in the news recently, following an ESPN report detailing “frustrations” between Gronkowski and head coach Bill Belichick. Gronkowski wouldn’t commit to coming back next season immediately after the Philadelphia Eagles defeated New England in Super Bowl XLII, but both ESPN’s Jeff Darlington and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport have reported that Gronkowski is likely to keep playing.

“I’m definitely gonna look at my future,” Gronkowski told the media when asked about his possible retirement after Super Bowl XLII. “We’ll sit down in the next couple of weeks and see where I’m at.”

An eight-year career has taken a physical toll on Gronkowski. He’s undergone nine surgeries, including four forearm surgeries and multiple back procedures. According to ESPN, the “mental fatigue” that Gronkowski has experienced while playing for the Patriots has also made the Pro Bowler ponder his future.

Belichick, reportedly, has his own frustrations with New England’s star playmaker, including his use of social media and questioning whether Gronkowski is fully invested in the team.

That doesn’t mean the Patriots will look to deal Gronkowski. When healthy, the tight end might be the most dangerous weapon in football, having been a first-team All-Pro selection in five of the last seven years. New England would be hard-pressed to get close to equal value in return.

No matter how unlikely it is that the Patriots will part with Gronkowski, teams will still make offers. Multiple teams have told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer that they intend to speak with New England about acquiring the tight end, and Breer believes that Gronkowski might want a raise before he commits to playing in 2018.

Gronkowski has two years left on his contract with cap hits of $10.9 million and $12 million for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, respectively, via Spotrac.

Gronkowski played 14 games in 2017, catching 69 passes for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns. He had nine receptions for 116 yards and two scores in the Super Bowl loss.