Mitchell Wilcox has a message for all the New England Patriots fans who have been giving him grief after the team gave him Rob Gronkowski's old number. 

There aren't many fan bases that are as passionate as the one that resides in New England, which is why it shouldn't come as a surprise that more than a few fans have gone after Wilcox after the Patriots gave him the No. 87 to wear for the upcoming season. But the Patriots' new tight end said he understands their anger. 

"I will be the first to say that Gronk's (number) should sure as hell be retired," Wilcox wrote on X. "Had a Gronk poster in my room growing up so salute to the TE. Didn't choose it, it's what [the equipment team] had for me & I'm thankful to be part of the (organization)."

Mitchell Wilcox
NE • TE • #87
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It's odd that the Patriots would give out No. 87, especially to someone who plays the same position as Gronkowski. And while there may not have been any thought that went into it, the Patriots giving out Gronkowski's number might be a subtle message that there is a new era underway in New England under new head coach Jerod Mayo

Wilcox is accurate in that Gronkowski's number should be retired by the team. By all accounts, Gronkowski is considered to be one of -- if not the -- greatest tight end of all-time. He played an integral role in the Patriots' most-recent three Super Bowl wins during his nine-year run with the team. 

While his number will be worn this year, it's safe to say that Gronkowski's No. 87 will one day join the seven numbers that the Patriots have already retired. That number will increase to eight whenever the Patriots officially retire Tom Brady's No. 12, which may happen when the team honors his career for a second time this summer.