How will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fill the void – on and off the court – left by the retirement of Rob Gronkowski? – Tampa Bay Buccaneers Blog

TAMPA, Fla. — While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held out hope that tight end Rob Gronkowski would return for the 2022 season, the future Hall of Famer decided to call him a career again on Tuesday, two years after he left retirement to join quarterback Tom Brady in Tampa.

His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told Adam Schefter of ESPN that he wouldn’t pass on Gronk to join the Bucs later this season if his longtime friend Brady asked him to, but the Bucs must go on without him, without the “tuddies”, as he called the touchdowns – usually accompanied by a mischievous laugh – and with an unmistakable void that cannot be filled by one person, as Gronk has done it all.

With the departure of former first-round pick OJ Howard in free agency, the Bucs have only one experienced tight end in Cameron Brate, who plays the “F” role and is mostly a passer. Behind him is Codey McElroy, also an “F” who had a strong spring, but he only played one regular season game and is still learning to use his 6-foot-6, 258-pound frame. as a blocker. .

The Bucs selected two tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft — Cade Otton in the fourth round from the University of Washington and Ko Kieft, a sixth-round pick from the University of Iowa. Otton has the potential to play the ‘Y’ role as both an online blocker and pass catcher, but he didn’t attend rookie minicamp or the mandatory minicamp because he’s still recovering from. ankle surgery. Kieft, at 6ft 5in and 265lbs, is purely a blocker – and was an excellent one in college – but will be limited as a road runner, as he ran a 4.98 second dash over 40 yards at his pro day.

The Bucs need help in that position if they want to maintain Brady’s propensity for tight end throwing. Over the past two regular seasons, the Bucs have attempted 306 passes to tight ends — fourth among all teams in the league. Their 38 tight end attempts in the end zone over the past two seasons were the most of any NFL team.

Eric Ebron, Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph and Jared Cook are among the capable free agent options Tampa Bay could pursue. The Bucs have $10,596,585 in salary cap space, according to data from the Roster Management System. Ebron is 29, Graham and Cook are 35, and Rudolph is 32.

Cook played in 16 regular season games last season, for 564 receiving yards, four touchdowns and 31 first downs with the Los Angeles Chargers, but he also had five retirements. Rudolph appeared in 15 games and had 257 yards and a touchdown with the New York Giants, and while Graham had just 167 receiving yards in 11 games, he managed to score three touchdowns for the Chicago Bears .

Ebron caught 12 passes for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season before going on reserve with a right knee injury that required surgery. He has since been medically cleared. In 2020, however, he had 56 catches for 558 receiving yards and five touchdowns for the Steelers. Graham had eight touchdown passes in 2020, while Cook had seven.

None of those players have the chemistry Gronk had with Brady, who will report to training camp in five weeks for what could be his final season after retiring for 40 days earlier this spring.

As Brady said last year, “A lot of football is about anticipating what the problems will be, rather than trying to figure out how to fix the problem after the game. I think it’s a lot part of solving the problem before things happen. Gronk, he knows what I’m thinking, I know what he’s thinking. We’ve been doing it for so long together. It’s really nice. It’s a big luxury for two-position players like that who have been playing together for as long as we have.”

The Bucs will miss more than Gronk’s contributions on the field. Not only did he provide experience as a four-time Super Bowl winner, his coaching demeanor lifted the mood of those around him as he found a way to keep working hard while keeping things light and fun, with a knack for identifying when a teammate or coach needed a boost.

Brady said in a post on social media shortly after the news broke on Tuesday, “Even more important is the person he was off the pitch. Focused when needed and FUN the rest of the time. Having Gronk in your locker room was a dream of all NFL players.”

He performed in the community. Among Gronkowski’s most notable efforts was replacing $15,000 worth of football equipment and a new storage shed that was destroyed by arson at Blake High School in Tampa in 2020, his freshman year with the team.

“I don’t think he’s ever had a bad day, to be honest with you,” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said last year. “He smiles all the time, he has fun all the time. “Old Gronkitis” – that’s what we call it. Gronkite. He’s having fun, man. He has fun, he likes football, [and] the work he does is real [and] is serious. It’s just amazing the way he sees the world, not just the way he sees football.

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