Well that was short. Rob Gronkowski, the future Hall-of-Famer, who retired after the 2018 season, ended his one year hiatus from the National Football League, by agreeing to have his rights traded along with a 2020 7th round draft pick from the New England Patriots, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for a 4th round choice.
The trade to the Bucs, reunites the Tight End, with his Quarterback, in none other than fellow future Hall-Of-Famer, Tom Brady, who according to multiple sources, helped orchestrate the trade behind the scenes.
Brady and Gronkowski teaming up once again, makes too much sense. Not only will the duo, be the main drivers on the we don’t need Bill Belichick tour bus, from a numbers perspective, during their nine seasons together in New England, the two combined for 516 receptions for 7,786 yards, and 78 touchdowns.
The touchdown total is the most Brady has thrown to anybody in his legendary career, and it places the duo fifth all-time in NFL history.
It is all but certain they will pass the 79 put up by former Miami Dolphins combo Dan Marino and Mark Clayton, the new one-two punch in Florida, is also within striking distance of the number two duo on the list, in former San Diego Chargers, Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates.
While Brady and Gronk, might not catch the number one duo in Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, who combined for 112 TDs while with the Indianapolis Colts, in a Bucs offense that already features Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who are coming off their third and first Pro Bowl respectively, and a solid number two Tight End in Cameron Brate, adding a three-time Super Bowl champion, four-time First Team All-Pro, and someone who was voted to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, despite the fact that he hasn’t even turned 31 yet, might just be the push that the team needs to win the NFC South.
Speaking of the Division, the acquisition of arguably the best Tight End to play the game, could potentially shift the balance of power in the aforementioned NFC South.
While the three-time defending NFC South champion New Orleans Saints, added Emmanuel Sanders and brought back Safety Malcolm Jenkins, this is still the same team who somehow always falls victim to the unimaginable in the post-season, including not being able to stop Kirk Cousins, from marching down the field in overtime, and knocking them out in their Wild Card game this past year.
The Atlanta Falcons, who appeared to be headed towards a top three pick in this year’s draft at mid-season, before a second half run that saw them finish (6-2), appear to be pinning their hopes on former Los Angeles Running Back Todd Gurley, who still hasn’t looked the same since the Rams Super Bowl loss to coincidentally enough, Gronk, Brady, and the Pats, two years ago.
The Carolina Panthers, have the highest paid Running Back in the league in Christian McCaffrey, but after saying goodbye to the face of the franchise in Cam Newton, the heartbeat of the team in Luke Kuechly, and a host of other playmakers including James Bradbury, Eric Reid, Mario Addison, and Greg Olsen, the team is clearly rebuilding in the first year of the Matt Rhule era.
If you look at the math, Gronkowski, has one year remaining on his contract for this season at $10 million. The acquisition of Gronk, leaves the team about $3.6 million under the cap. Although the total isn’t much, Tampa Bay, could create additional space, by restructuring the deals of veterans like Ryan Jensen, Lavonte David, and Ali Marpet, or they could reach a long term deal with Defensive End Shaquil Barrett, who under the Franchise Tag, is scheduled to make $15,828,000 this year.
The Bucs, could create an instant $2 million in space, if they as expected, trade Tight End O.J Howard, who has just lost his starting spot to Gronk.
Regardless of what they do financially, there are free agents who want to play with the Bucs, because of the chance to play with Brady. The addition of Gronkowski, only magnifies that, and more importantly, helps push the franchise into Super Bowl contender conversation.
With the NFL Draft set to take place this week, the Bucs, will also still have a chance to patch up the remaining holes on their roster which include the Offensive Tackle, Running Back, and Safety.
Like any other trade, especially those done with the New England Patriots, there is some risk involved. In his last year with the Pats, Gronkowski, averaged 52.5 yards per catch (his lowest total since 2010), and only scored three touchdowns.
The biggest risk however, is the former Arizona Sun Devil’s health. Throughout his career, Gronk, has missed a total of 28 games due to injury, including a broken forearm, concussion, torn ACL and MCL, a back vertebral fracture, as well as a herniated disc.
After taking last year off to rest his body, in between throwing massive parties, and hosting Wrestle Mania, the Bucs are banking on Gronkowski staying healthy, recapturing at least some of his old form, helping the team reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and competing for a Super Bowl.
While a fourth round pick has value, trading it for a difference-maker like Gronkowski, who will be in a warm weather city, teamed up with his Quarterback, surrounded by two big play weapons at Wide Receiver, and playing for an offensive mastermind in Head Coach Bruce Arians, the risk was simply one the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to take.