Donald Trump says he's 'great friends' with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at New Hampshire rally

Donald Trump says he's 'great friends' with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at New Hampshire rally

The relationship between Tom Brady and Donald Trump (which these days is really only acknowledged by one party) has come up yet again, as the GOP nominee referred to both Brady and Patriots coach Bill Belichick as "great friends" Saturday at a rally in New Hampshire. 

“I have so many great friends in New England, including Tom Brady and Coach Belichick,” Trump said at the rally, per the Boston Globe. “How good is Tom? Remember last year, he had the red hats?”

Calling it the red hat -- singular -- would be more accurate, but that was enough to tie Brady and Trump closely together throughout what’s been a controversial campaign. Last year, Brady displayed a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker, later saying saying, “I hope so. That would be great,” when asked about the possibility of Trump becoming president. 

Recent days have seen Brady hold off on discussing Trump altogether, as he declined comment when asked during Wednesday’s press conference what he thought of Trump’s “locker room talk” that had emerged from a 2005 taping of “Access Hollywood.” 

Trump and Brady go back to 2002, when Trump flew Brady out to Indiana to judge the 2002 Miss USA pageant shortly after the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI. Brady has acknowledged their friendship several times over the years, something that was clearly reciprocated when Trump was outspoken against the NFL during the Deflategate saga. 

While Brady has continuously praised Trump, he said in his weekly WEEI appearance last December that he’d rather not discuss the election, after which Trump said he had asked Brady not to endorse him for the sake of not complicating things with his public image. 

“Can I just stay out of this debate? Donald is a good friend of mine,” Brady said on WEEI. “I have known him for a long time. I support all my friends. That is what I have to say. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s always been so supportive of me. For the last 15 years, since I judged a beauty pageant for him, which was one of the very first things that I did that I thought was really cool that came along with winning the Super Bowl. 

“He’s always invited me to play golf and I’ve always enjoyed his company. I support all my friends in everything they do. I think it’s pretty remarkable what he’s achieved in his life. You’re going from business, kind of an incredible businessman and then a TV star, and then getting into politics. It’s three different career paths. I think that is pretty remarkable.”

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.