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How the future HOF tight end’s decision to hang up his cleats affects the Buccaneers

Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement on Tuesday, strolling away from the NFL for the second time in his profession. One of the best tight ends of all time and a surefire Hall of Famer, Gronk beforehand hung up his cleats after the 2018 season and spent a yr out of the league earlier than becoming a member of Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in 2020-21.

Still one in all the finest TEs in the recreation, Gronk was broadly anticipated to select between retirement or re-signing with Tampa, because it didn’t seem he was severely contemplating different groups. The Bucs can have to recalibrate their offense with out Gronkowski, however there’s at all times the probability he decides to come out of retirement once more and chase one other Super Bowl ring.

Rob Gronkowski retires, leaving a gap on the Buccaneers’ roster

If that is really it for Gronkowski, he’ll be leaving the NFL on a excessive observe. While he appeared in solely 12 video games a season in the past, Gronk nonetheless ranked seventh amongst tight ends with 802 yards receiving. Among TEs with a minimum of 50 targets, he completed third with 14.6 yards per reception.

He wasn’t classic Gronkowski, however he was nonetheless a highly-effective offensive weapon. As effectively as Brady has messed with the Buccaneers’ different move catchers, none have the long-standing relationship with the GOAT that Gronk does.

Gronkowski, 33, is the second tight finish to depart Tampa this offseason. Former first-round choose O.J. Howard signed a one-year take care of the Bills in March, leaving Cameron Brate as the lone skilled TE on the Buccaneers’ roster.

Brate isn’t any spring rooster, both, as he’ll flip 31 in July. His final season as a full-time starter got here in 2016 when he posted 57 receptions, 660 yards, and eight touchdowns. He hasn’t topped 50 receptions or 600 yards since, as he was recurrently blocked by Gronkowski and Howard.

Tampa used two 2022 draft picks on tight ends, including Washington’s Cade Otton in the fourth spherical and Minnesota’s Ko Kieft in the sixth. Given the problem of adapting to the tight finish place at the NFL degree, it’s most likely not honest to depend on these rookies for any substantial contributions throughout their rookie seasons. The solely different TE on the Bucs’ roster is former UDFA Codey McElroy, who has performed all of 19 NFL snaps.

General supervisor Jason Licht might look to the free agent market, however the checklist of obtainable TEs is fairly slim. Jared Cook is the most suitable choice who stays unsigned. At 35, he’s even older than Gronk, however he nonetheless managed to put up a 48-564-4 line with the Chargers final season. Other FA tight ends embrace Jimmy Graham, Eric Ebron, Jesse James, and Chris Herndon.

If the free agent tight ends don’t enchantment to Licht, he might look to commerce for a Gronk alternative. Going again to the New England effectively might show fruitful, as current draft picks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene could possibly be accessible after the Patriots added Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith final offseason. Dan Arnold (Jaguars), Foster Moreau (Raiders), and Trevon Wesco (Jets) additionally make sense as potential commerce candidates.

Chris Godwin is probably going to start the 2022 season on the bodily unable to carry out checklist, depriving Tampa Bay of its finest over-the-middle menace. Brate, receiver Russell Gage, and working backs Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White will choose up a few of these alternatives. However, the want is there for one more tight finish.

Could Gronk un-retire once more?

Instead of including a brand new TE, the Bucs might merely cross their fingers and hope Gronkowski comes out of retirement. He’s executed it earlier than, and possibly Tampa assumes Gronk doesn’t need the grind of a full NFL season. Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, even admitted as a lot to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

“It would not surprise me if Tom Brady calls him during the season to come back and Rob answers the call,” Rosenhaus stated. “This is just my opinion but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob comes back during the season or next season.”

The meat of Tampa Bay’s schedule comes at the outset. They have video games in opposition to the Cowboys, Packers, and Chiefs in the first 4 weeks. Unless Gronk pulls an abrupt about-face, he gained’t be accessible for these contests.

But might he come again after the Buccaneers’ bye in Week 11? He’d have seven regular-season video games to each assist Tampa safe playoff positioning and ramp up his physique for the event. Gronk might additionally conceivably wait till the postseason begins earlier than coming again for an opportunity at a fifth Lombardi trophy.

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