The Buccaneers signed Kyle Rudolph about a month after Rob Gronkowski hung up his cleats, but Rudolph’s path to Tampa Bay started before his peer’s retirement. According to Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times, Tom Brady recruited Rudolph to the Buccaneers before Gronk announced his retirement.
Speaking to reporters today, Rudolph acknowledged that Brady’s presence and the Buccaneers’ winning culture influenced his decision to join Tampa Bay. While he’ll likely replace Gronk atop the Buccaneers’ TE depth chart, the veteran made it clear that he’s got a long way to go to replace the future Hall of Famer on the stat sheet.
“Those shoes are way too big to fill, and I’ve got pretty big feet,” Rudolph said. “I feel like there’s so much ground to make up, and I don’t have 10 years of experience with Tom to make it up. We play the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 in September, and my goal is to go out there that week and be on the same page with Tom like we have been playing together for 10 years.”
Head coach Todd Bowles shared a similar sentiment. While he noted that there’s no replacing Gronkowski’s spot on the field, he anticipates Rudolph playing an important role on this squad.
“He brings intelligence, he brings toughness, he brings savvy, and he’s played the game for a while,” Bowles said. “You’re not going to replace Gronk. We’ve got to do that in a variety of ways, whether it’s running back, the other tight ends, the receivers. … But he brings us a veteran presence, understanding the ball game and he learns fast, so he’ll help us on Sundays.”
More notes out of Tampa Bay…
- Speaking of Rudolph, the tight end’s one-year contract contains a base pay worth $2MM, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. Rudolph can make another $1.5MM in incentives, bumping the maximum value to $3.5MM. The deal includes $1.5MM in guaranteed money, and considering the commitment, Florio thinks it’s pretty clear that Rudolph will ultimately make the 53-man roster. Greg Auman of The Athletic shares details (on Twitter) of Rudolph’s incentives, which includes $375k in 46-man roster bonuses, $375k for 30 receptions, an additional $250k for 40 receptions, an additional $250k for 50 receptions, and $250k for a Pro Bowl selection.
- Julio Jones‘ contract with the Buccaneers also contains a number of incentives. According to Auman (on Twitter), the wideout has 10 bonuses worth $200K: bonuses for each of 50/60/70/80 receptions, bonuses for each of 600/700/800/900 receiving yards, a bonus for an NFC title, and a bonus for a Super Bowl victory. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets that the Buccaneers included four void years on the receiver’s contract, a tactic the front office has used frequently in recent years. As a result of this move, Jones has a cap number that’s barely above $2MM.
- Auman speculates that the Buccaneers could add an inside linebacker and an outside linebacker before the start of the season. At ILB, the team is hoping that Devin White and Lavonte David will stand out at the position, but both players have their fair share of question marks and the Buccaneers lack depth behind the duo. At OLB, the team is still seeking a replacement for Jason Pierre-Paul. 2021 first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka could ultimately be the answer opposite Shaq Barrett, but similar to the other linebacker position, Tampa Bay lacks depth behind their two starters.