This should not be especially surprising. After all, Brady did retire for a brief time just months ago, he has long stated that he wants to play until he is 45 — he just hit that milestone on August 3 — and he is out of contract at season’s end. Back in July, Brady acknowledged he was winding down, saying, “I would say it’s year to year. Could this be my last year? Absolutely. Could I change my mind? Absolutely. I’ve realized I don’t have five years left. I want to do it my way. I want to give it everything I got and see where I’m at. My body feels really good.”
Brady took an 11-day hiatus in the middle of this year’s training camp, which was planned but which nonetheless generated countless headlines, like most things that Brady does. We knew that Brady spent that time at a Bahamas resort with his family, and as Rapoport notes, Brady had promised his wife while he was still retired that he would vacation with the family in August for the first time in a long time. His absence amounted to nothing more than a fulfillment of that promise.
Of course, given Brady’s competitive nature, a return for the 2023 season remains a possibility. One source close to the 15-time Pro Bowler confirmed as much to Rapoport, though it presently seems more likely that, regardless of who is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at season’s end, Brady will begin working as a Fox analyst on a healthy 10-year, $375MM contract. If he does choose to keep playing, he would be free to sign with any team, and while one source reiterated the affection and respect that Brady has for the Buccaneers’ organization, that source did not say that Brady would only play for Tampa Bay.
As for one of Brady’s favorite targets over the years, Rob Gronkowski? Despite Gronk’s recent adamance that he is retired for good, the Bucs reportedly were holding out hope that, if they are in the middle of a playoff chase this season, the enigmatic tight end could be convinced to return. However, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com writes, Tampa Bay believes Gronkowski is truly done with football.
The four-time First-Team All-Pro did post 55 catches for 802 yards and six TDs in just 12 games last year. If the Bucs are indeed in the mix for another Lombardi this season, they and Brady may well check in to see if Gronk might consider a second unretirement.
The future Hall of Fame tight end, who ended his first retirement to reunite with Brady in Tampa in 2020, said he would not unretire for a second time.
“I would answer, obviously, the greatest quarterback of all time, ask him how he’s doing, tell him I’m doing good. But I wouldn’t go back to football; no,” Gronkowski said (via ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss; video link), when asked how he would respond to a Brady request for a second unretirement.
“I’m done with football. Love the game. Definitely blessed with all the opportunities the game of football has given me, and relationships — obviously here in New England for nine seasons and down in Tampa for two. But done with football and stepping my feet into the business world, business ventures, and just seeing what’s out there and where I can find my place.”
Gronkowski initially unretired in April 2020, with the Bucs acquiring his rights for a fourth-round pick. The All-Decade performer became instrumental to Tampa Bay’s 2020 Super Bowl LV run and re-signed with the team on a one-year, $8MM deal that included incentives — ones Brady helped him reach late in the season. Gronkowski’s 802 receiving yards last season — in just 12 games — were the most he had accumulated since his 2017 All-Pro campaign.
Gronk, 33, was never able to fully capitalize on his talents, being tied to a Patriots extension signed in 2012 all the way through his 2020 Bucs debut season. (Though, the popular ex-NFLer has found a few other income streams.) It is unclear what the Bucs offered this offseason, but it was not enough to delay another retirement. While Gronk cannot be completely moved off the NFL radar, especially after Brady put off his own retirement to play again, the Bucs are set to enter training camp with Cameron Brate and two Day 3 rookies at tight end.
BruceArians has made it clear that his decision to step down as Buccaneers head coach wasn’t because of tension with his franchise quarterback. Rather, Arians has continually mentioned his desire for a clear succession plan when it came to the coaching staff, and he saw a golden opportunity to pass on the reigns to Todd Bowles.
“No it really wasn’t hard,” Arians said during a recent appearance on the “Eye Test For Two” podcast (h/t to JoeBucsFan.com). “[Winning a championship is] great, but succession was really, really big for me. It didn’t happen in Arizona. It meant the world to me to make sure 34 families had jobs beyond February. The Super Bowl wasn’t guaranteed, there’s nothing guaranteed, but now our guys have 5-year contracts. Todd’s got a 5-year deal and all the assistant coaches are set for the future.
“I was probably done anyway, so why not do it now? I know a lot of people think the Hall of Fame is the end-all, be-all and if it happens, that would be the most unbelievable thing to be able to wear a gold jacket. But this meant more to me personally.”
When Arians stepped away from his gig, it was assumed that the move was influenced by Tom Brady‘s decision to renege on his retirement and return for the 2022 campaign. Both sides have said that wasn’t the case, and Arians even said he would have reconsidered had he known Brady’s intentions before making his own decision. Passing on the job to Bowles seemed like a natural move, especially with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich still around to direct the offense.
With Arians no longer roaming the sideline, the long-time coach has transitioned into more of an advisory role. When Arians stepped down, his new role was described as “Senior Football Consultant.” The former coach indicated that he’ll still be interacting with both the coaches and the players, and he’ll naturally be able to take on a lesser role when it comes to game day:
“It’s a ‘What do you think?’ job,” Arians said. “Everybody asks me what do I think and they know they’re getting a brutally honest answer, whether it be [owner] JoelGlazer, [general manaher] JasonLicht, Todd Bowles or Byron Leftwich. It’s been fun going to practice, watching and learning some more, watching us change, looking at the new guys. Man, that draft class is going to be a home run. Looking forward to getting to camp.
“That’s the beauty of my job. I get to be in the locker room, get to be around the coaches every day and still have a big hand in the draft. The relationships were always the biggest thing for me. Building a new team, watching the new guys come in. Now, Sundays might be different sitting upstairs. I might be able to still holler loud enough to cuss out the refs from up there.”
Since he’ll no longer be responsible for devising a game plan, Arians will have more of an opportunity to contribute to team building. One of his more pressing issues will be figuring out how to proceed following tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s decision to retire. Fortunately, Arians doesn’t sound too worried about the team’s depth at the position.
“It’s a step back, that’s for sure,” Arians said. “[H]e’s a Hall of Fame player. But I really like the room right now. I love the young kids we’ve got in there and Cam Brate’s a good veteran player that Tom really trusts. Now, he’s not Gronk. That size and what he brings as a blocker and receiver I think is unmatched. You don’t replace that guy, but we also have Codey McElroy … I think it’s time for him to break out as a receiver.”
Linked to a possible Buccaneers agreement ahead of training camp, Rob Gronkowski had said another retirement was a true consideration. The future Hall of Fame tight end is following through on that, telling NFL reporter Jordan Schultz he is retiring after 11 seasons (Twitter link). Gronkowski subsequently announced his decision (via Instagram).
Gronkowski, 33, played a key role on the past two Bucs teams, re-emerging from a 2019 retirement to join Tom Brady in relocating to Tampa. His exit will leave the Bucs shorthanded at tight end. O.J. Howard joined the Bills in March. Gronk, who secured a spot on the NFL’s 100th Anniversary team before his Bucs stint began, will leave the game as one of his era’s defining players.
“I will now be going back into my retirement home, walking away from football again with my head held high knowing I gave it everything I had, good or bad, every time I stepped out on the field,” Gronkowski said. “The friendships and relationships I have made will last forever, and I appreciate every single one of my teammates and coaches for giving everything they had as well.
“From retirement, back to football and winning another championship and now back to chilling out, thank you to all.”
The Bucs learned of Gronk’s decision last week, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. This transaction will lead to a $5MM 2022 dead-money charge. Gronkowski has resumed his career after this sort of announcement before, and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said he would not be surprised if his client answered a call from Brady to return during the season (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). For now, however, Gronk retirement No. 2 is upon us.
Barely two weeks ago, the Bucs were confident they could convince Gronkowski to return for another season — one that could end up being Brady’s true finale. But the soon-to-be 45-year-old quarterback will once again soldier on without his top NFL sidekick. Gronk’s 2019 exit resulted in Brady having a down season, his Patriots finale. While the Bucs have positioned the legendary (and recently unretired) QB better in terms of weaponry than the Pats did in the late 2010s, Tampa Bay relied on Gronk at points during its Brady-fueled ascent over the past two seasons.
A four-time first-team All-Pro, Gronk will be a surefire candidate for first-ballot Canton induction in 2027 — assuming he does not again unretire. He added 13 more touchdown receptions to his career ledger, which stands at 92 (third-most by a tight end). His 17 touchdowns in 2011 remain the single-season tight end record. That showing prompted the Pats to give their breakout star a six-year, $54MM extension in 2012. That deal ended up covering his entire New England career and became an issue for both Gronk and the tight end market as a whole.
In terms of playoff scoring, Gronk is on his own tier between Jerry Rice and the field. The former Pats and Bucs pass catcher’s 15 postseason touchdown catches lead all non-Rice performers by at least three. Gronk has scored two touchdowns in multiple Super Bowls, including Super Bowl LV as a Buccaneer, and came through with a pivotal deep grab to help the Patriots secure their sixth championship three seasons ago.
Gronk will fall short of the career totals amassed by the likes of Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, but for sheer dominance, he rivals not only any tight end to play the game but just about any pass catcher. The 2010 second-round pick’s emergence helped Brady remain a top-tier quarterback into his 40s. The 6-foot-6 cog posted four 1,000-yard seasons, collected four Super Bowl rings and won Comeback Player of the Year honors in 2014. Despite Gronk’s shorter career compared to some of his positional peers, the Arizona alum’s 32 100-yard games are the most by a tight end in NFL history.
Injuries, however, plagued the gregarious superstar for most of his career. Gronk suffered a high ankle sprain in the 2011 AFC championship game, limiting him for Super Bowl XLVI, and missed time due to a fractured forearm in 2012. After remaining relatively healthy from 2014-15, following a 2013 ACL tear, Gronkowski sustained a herniated disk that knocked him out for much of the 2016 season. He missed part of the 2017 AFC title game due to a concussion and was hobbled during the ’18 campaign. Upon returning from the 2019 sabbatical — one that involved extensive WWE work — Gronk surprisingly did not miss a game for the 2020 Bucs. But he missed five games due to a rib injury last season.
That string of 2010s injuries knocked the then-Patriots dynamo off his perch as the game’s unquestioned top tight end, but he proved effective in spurts in 2018 and with the Bucs, who suddenly feature a glaring void on offense. Tampa Bay still has Cameron Brate returning. After seeing Howard and Gronkowski eclipse his profile for years, Brate — a ninth-year Buccaneer who posted 500-plus-yard seasons back in 2016 and ’17 — could return as a starter. The Bucs also drafted Day 3 tight ends Cade Otton (Round 4) and Ko Kieft(Round 6) this year. If the Bucs want another vet to replace Gronkowski, Eric Ebron, Jimmy Graham, Jared Cook and Kyle Rudolph are free agents.
According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, though, the Buccaneers are confident they will re-sign Gronkowski before training camp. They don’t expect to land their tight end of the past two years before mandatory minicamp, assuming Gronkowski will want to continue enjoying his offseason. Gronkowski has been mulling retirement for the second time in his career, but the Buccaneers don’t feel too much pressure as he has reportedly said that, if he does return, he would only play for Tampa Bay.
In terms of affordability, the Buccaneers have about $10.67MM of remaining cap space, according to overthecap.com, and Gronkowski’s past two deals with the team have only been for $9.25MM and $8MM. Gronkowski was third on the team in receiving yards last year behind only star receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Without Gronkowski, Tampa Bay would likely turn to Cameron Brate to start at tight end. Likely in anticipation of Gronkowski’s possible departure, the Buccaneers did draft two tight ends this year, selecting Washington’s Cade Otton in the fourth round and Minnesota’s Ko Kieft in the sixth.
For now, Tampa Bay is giving Gronkowski the time and space he needs, counting on his competitive nature and relationship with Brady to bring him back to football. Gronkowski will likely continue to take his time, returning on his own schedule, if the Buccaneers’ suspicions are correct, or hanging up his cleats, if they’re not.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated last weekend, free agent tight end Rob Gronkowski was asked about the potential for his return. In reality, the question and answer were played off a bit as a joke.
Here are a few more rumors from around the NFC, starting with a rumor out of the Windy City:
In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Bears heavily addressed their offensive line, drafting four offensive linemen and signing one more undrafted free agent lineman. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune expects the team to continue trying to add to the group, saying that they should be on the lookout specifically for “an experienced option to compete for the right guard job.” Biggs also expects Chicago to target veterans at defensive line and wide receiver over the next few weeks.
New Eagles linebacker Nakobe Dean was expected to be a first round pick during last month’s Draft. Dean was the victim of one of the least predictable slides of all time, falling down to the third round of the Draft due to concerns over his health. Well, according to EJ Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dean has been a full participant in the team’s rookie minicamp, making an effort to disprove the notion many teams held that he would potentially miss his entire rookie season with a pectoral injury.
Two games into the 2021 NFL season, Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham suffered a season-ending tear of his Achilles tendon. Well, according to Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94WIP.com, Graham says he feels like the injury never even happened. He will return to the field with no restrictions this preseason. This wouldn’t be the first time Graham has made a full recovery from a long-term injury. He tore his ACL 13 games into his rookie season. Despite the serious injury, Graham has become the impact player he is today, the same player he is expecting to be this upcoming season.
Falcons wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has always been a bit of a swiss army knife. He has made impressive plays in the kick and punt return games and, while performing mainly as a wide receiver for most of his career, Patterson has displayed the ability to run the ball when required, as well. After signing to join the Falcons last year, Patterson was asked to run the ball more than ever before, serving as Atlanta’s top rusher in terms of both attempts and yards. Well, Michael Fabiano of Sports Illustrated quoted ESPN’s Michael Rothstein stating his belief that Patterson will return to his primary position, expecting the 31-year old to spend more time at wide receiver than running back next year. Whether this would be a result of offseason additions like free agent signing Damien Williams or newly drafted Keaontay Ingram or if Patterson just requested a return to his natural role, Patterson is expected to take fewer snaps at running back next season.
While Tom Brady will be back for another season with the Buccaneers, it’s uncertain if his tight end will stick around. Speaking to TMZ Sports, Rob Gronkowski said he was unsure if he’ll play in 2022.
“Right now, I’m not ready to get back out on that field,” Gronkowski said (via ESPN.com). “I’m not ready to commit to the game of football right now.”
“Even in your 30s, I mean, you just can’t just slack it and just be 50% all-in, then you’re going to get caught off with the game and it’s going to just spit you right out. You’ve got to be fully dedicated. I’m not ready to do that yet, I’m not going to sign a contract if I’m not fully ready.”
Gronk has obviously flirted with retirement in the past, sitting out the entire 2019 season. He reunited with Brady in Tampa Bay for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, but the tight end has refused to commit to a 2022 campaign. Brady’s retirement and unretirement has fueled talks that Gronkowski could give it one last go, but it also wouldn’t be surprising if the player just decides to hang up his cleats.
Despite only appearing in only 12 games, Gronkowski managed to top his 2020 numbers this past year, finishing with 55 receptions for 802 yards and six touchdowns. With O.J. Howard heading to Buffalo, Cameron Brate currently leads the depth chart at tight end.
While the 32-year-old didn’t want to discuss his own future, he was more than eager to speak about Brady’s offseason. The tight end admitted that he wasn’t surprised when Brady announced that he was in fact returning for another season in 2022.
“I knew he was going to come back, but I didn’t think he was going to come back this year, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I thought he was going to come back in a year, spend some time with his family.”
With Tom Bradyand most of the 2021 Buccaneers roster returning for at least one more season, one of the few remaining questions concerns the future of Rob Gronkowski. According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, there are signs pointing towards the tight end continuing his career (video link).
“I don’t see himanywhere else but Tampa if he plays”, La Canfora said. “He’s given some indications that he does expect to play… The band is essentially back.”
Given that, the insider posits that he expects the soon-to-be 33-year-old to ultimately re-sign in Tampa “at his own pace”. While the veteran may not be present for the totality of the Buccaneers’ offseason workouts, he already has a career’s worth of familiarity with Brady and a consistent track record of production.
After un-retiring to reunite with Brady in Tampa, the 2010s All-Decade member has played 28 games with their new team. Over that span, he has made 100 catches for 1,425 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s added another three scores in six playoff contests.
It was reported last week, however, that Gronkowski remained undecided on his football future. He heaped praise on Joe Burrowand the AFC champion Bengals, leading to speculation that could be his next destination. Brady has since un-retired himself, though, so it is expected to be Bucs-or-bust at this time.
Given Tampa Bay’s current cap situation, the team wouldn’t be able to afford to bring Gronkowski back at the $9.25MM he averaged over his two years with the team. Should he choose to continue playing, though, Tampa would surely welcome him back.
Tom Brady‘s unretirement made Rob Gronkowski extending his own unretirement to a third year expected, but the future Hall of Fame tight end is not a lock to return.
Gronkowski is undecided on playing in 2022, agent Drew Rosenhaus said (via NFL.com’s Cameron Wolfe, on Twitter). The Buccaneers remain interested in keeping the decorated tight end, and Rosenhaus was in discussions with the team Wednesday. But Gronk remains on the fence, for the time being.
It would surprise if Gronk did not return. Not only has the soon-to-be 33-year-old pass catcher been tied to Brady throughout his career, he offered effusive praise for Joe Burrow, hinting at possible interest in joining the Bengals as a free agent. Those comments came before Brady re-emerged. Should Gronk play in 2022, he is widely expected to do so in Tampa.
Although Gronkowski’s 2020 unretirement preceded a season in which he played all 20 Bucs games and helped the team win Super Bowl LV, he battled injuries again in 2021. The former injury-prone Patriots dynamo missed five games last season due to broken ribs. Gronk still managed six touchdown catches and topped his 2020 receiving output by posting 802 yards — his most since his 2017 All-Pro season — for the NFC South champions.
Gronk signed a one-year, $8MM deal to return in 2021, doing so on March 15 of last year. The Bucs now have Russell Gage in the fold but have lost O.J. Howard in free agency. Gronk can certainly demand similar money for 2022, but the Bucs continue to wait on his decision.
It looks like the Buccaneers’ quarterback questions have been answered for now. Get comfortable, Kyle Trask, you’ve got a bit longer to wait. After 40 days of retirement, Tom Brady has announced he will return for his 23rd season of NFL football in a tweet this evening. He announced he has unfinished business in Tampa after the team lost in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last year to the eventual-Super Bowl Champion Rams.
Some details will need to be hashed out as Brady still had four years on his contract, with all years after 2022 being voided upon his retirement. Past that, Tampa Bay has several offensive pieces set to become unrestricted free agents including center Ryan Jensen, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard, and running backs Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II, and Giovani Bernard. If they are going to attempt another glory run, these loose ends will need to be tied up.
In response to the news, no one is more happy to see the quarterback return than Rams’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey who was set to spend eternity as the last person to have Tom Brady throw a touchdown on them. On the other hand, no one is less happy to see the quarterback return than the unfortunate big-spender who just dropped $518,000 at an auction in a bid to receive Tom Brady’s final touchdown ball. Looks like there will be many other balls getting thrown past many other defensive backs before Brady retires again.