Bedard: It’s time for the Patriots to flash the Gronkowski Bat Signal

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I don't want to do this. I didn't think they would need to do this. But I think it's time ...

The Patriots need to flash a No. 87 spotlight into the sky over Gillette Stadium. Make the call. The Patriots need Rob Gronkowski back in uniform for the close of this season.

READ — Bedard: Rob Gronkowski concludes improbable HOF career – for now (free)

If Gronkowski wants to stay retired, that's fine. He more than deserves to be happy and to live the rest of his life without the pain associated with the National Football League, or the stress that comes from playing for Bill Belichick.

I don't even think the Patriots absolutely need Gronkowski to win another Super Bowl. They're still the favorites in my mind. The defense is still great and could indeed carry this team to a title.

But I can tell you Gronk would make it a lot easier for Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels and this Patriots offense that gets more and more painful to watch with each passing week.

Sure, it might get better without Gronk. How can it not? They'll get left tackle Isaiah Wynn back after the bye. That will definitely help, if he can stay on the field for the first time in his young career. Getting starting tight end Matt LaCosse back from his problematic high ankle sprain (those don't ever get a whole lot better during the season) would give them another viable target — sorry Ben Watson. And maybe, just maybe, N'Keal Harry is the one rookie receiver who can miss the preseason, miss the first eight games and become a dangerous weapon down the stretch.

If all of those things happen, then the Patriots don't need Gronkowski.

Anyone out there have much confidence they will? Didn't think so.

Enter No. 87.

Why should Gronkowski at least contemplate a return?

It certainly wouldn't be for the money, which would be just $2,881,434 for the rest of the season should he meet the deadline of Nov. 30th. The Patriots have $3,915,281 in cap space right now. They can't afford any more, and would have to do something just to be ok cap-wise for the rest of the season.

Here are the reasons why it might be appealing, should someone reach out to Gronkowski: