Rob Gronkowski

Bills Had Interest In Rob Gronkowski

The first free agency of Rob Gronkowski‘s legendary career was brief, as he was quickly re-signed by the Buccaneers on Monday. But that doesn’t mean Tampa Bay was the only option on his list, as Bills GM Brandon Beane confirmed Thursday his team had interest in the tight end.

We spoke to his rep about him…we never made an official offer…I think there was some interest but at the end of the day, it would have been an upset for him to leave Tom Brady,” Beane said, via this tweet from Mike Giradi of NFL Network. It sounds like Buffalo expressed some interest early on but got told by his agent he was likely headed back to the Bucs and backed off.

It all makes plenty of sense because Gronk has long said the only reason he came out of retirement in the first place was to play with Brady again. Tampa also just won the Super Bowl and gave him an $8MM contract worth up to $10MM, so there’s not really any reason for him to switch things up.

Still, the thought of Gronkowski playing in Buffalo is cool. It would’ve been a homecoming for the future Hall of Famer, as he was born just 15 minutes outside of Buffalo and grew up in upstate New York. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The former Patriot played in all 16 games last year, finishing with 623 yards and seven touchdowns.

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Buccaneers To Bring Back Rob Gronkowski

Another major Buccaneers band-retention item can be removed from their to-do list. The Super Bowl champs are re-signing Rob Gronkowski on a one-year deal worth $8MM (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). With incentives, Gronk can earn up to $10MM. 

[RELATED: Bucs Re-Sign Shaq Barrett]

The Bucs have now moved to retain Gronk, Chris Godwin, Shaquil Barrett and Lavonte David. While more work remains, the Bucs have ensured their top would-be free agents will stay for the team’s title defense. That’s due to some slight hometown discounts and some serious cap maneuvering. Barrett, for example, will count for less than $6MM against the Buccaneers’ 2021 salary cap. But, in total, his four-year deal is worth $68MM and could go as high as $72MM.

After capturing his first Super Bowl ring without Bill Belichick, Gronk seemed pretty set on returning to Tampa Bay.

Yeah, I’ll remain unretired,” the tight end said in February. “I’m a free agent. It’s the first time in my career that I’m a free agent…But I definitely see myself coming back, just the guys around here, the players around here, the coaches, the people in the front office, they’re all just great people. I loved working with them all year long.”

So, obviously going to soak this in and see where I’m at in a couple weeks, but I don’t see why not. I don’t see why I won’t be back.”

Gronkowski, 32 in May, found his footing quickly as he hauled in 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. That stat line wasn’t as gaudy as his best seasons with the Patriots, but he showed up big in the Super Bowl, leading all receivers with six grabs for 67 yards and two TDs en route to the ring.

Bucs’ Rob Gronkowski: “I Don’t See Why I Won’t Be Back”

Rob Gronkowski wants to keep the party going. After capturing his first Super Bowl ring sans Bill Belichick, the tight end told reporters that he plans to continue playing in 2021. 

Yeah, I’ll remain unretired,” Gronk said (via PFT). “I’m a free agent. It’s the first time in my career that I’m a free agent…But I definitely see myself coming back, just the guys around here, the players around here, the coaches, the people in the front office, they’re all just great people. I loved working with them all year long.”

So, obviously going to soak this in and see where I’m at in a couple weeks, but I don’t see why not. I don’t see why I won’t be back.”

Gronk previously hinted at another season and reports indicated that he’d only suit up for Tom Brady & Co. Gronk, 32 in May, managed to shake off the rust in pewter, notching 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. That stat line wasn’t as gaudy as his best seasons with the Patriots, but he showed up big in the Super Bowl, leading all receivers with six grabs for 67 yards and two TDs.

While Gronkowski needs a new contract, Cameron Brate‘s deal extends through 2023. That shouldn’t be much of a barrier, however. The Bucs can cut Brate to save $6.5MM against the cap with no dead money charge. The bigger numbers crunch will come from fellow free agents such as wide receiver Chris Godwin, outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, and inside linebacker Lavonte David.

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Bucs Expected To Retain WR Chris Godwin

There are a number of quality wide receivers slated for free agency next month, but it sounds like the Bucs will keep one of them off the market. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Tampa is expected to engage Chris Godwin in talks on a long-term contract before the March 9 deadline for applying the franchise tag, and if those talks do not result in a deal, it sounds as if the team is prepared to use the tag on the Pro Bowl wideout (Twitter link).

We heard last April that the Bucs were eyeing an extension for Godwin, but it’s unclear how far those negotiations advanced. Between the lack of a new contract and the fact that Tampa has a number of other key free agents to make decisions on, there was some speculation that Godwin would be playing elsewhere in 2021. But it sounds as if that won’t be the case.

This season, Godwin did not quite return to the Pro Bowl form he displayed in 2019, but he was quite effective just the same. Although his 12.9 yards-per-reception mark was a career-low, that is largely attributable to the fact that the team transitioned from Jameis Winston to Tom Brady at quarterback. Godwin’s catch rate increased to a career-best 77.4%, and had he played in all 16 games — he missed four contests due to injury — he was on pace to eclipse 1,100 receiving yards. He also scored seven TDs.

Based on the expected salary cap of $180.5MM, the franchise tag number for Godwin would be $15.808MM (h/t Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com on Twitter). Godwin can probably do better than that on a long-term contract, as the top 12 wide receiver deals in the league feature AAVs of at least $16.2MM, but it’s a fair starting point in contract talks.

The Bucs are also interested in bringing back Antonio Brown, and while Rapoport says tight end Rob Gronkowski plans to take a few weeks to make a retirement decision, he will only play for Tampa if he chooses to return in 2021. Keeping the band together for what could be the final season of Brady’s career makes plenty of sense, though it could mean that a defensive free agent like Shaquil Barrett or Lavonte David will be squeezed out of the picture.

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Rob Gronkowski To Return In 2021, Hopes To Play For Bucs

Earlier this month, Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski said he wasn’t sure whether he would retire at season’s end. In an interview on the NFL Network today (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk), Gronkowski indicated he would be back on the playing field in 2021.

The 31-year-old will be eligible for free agency this offseason, but if he has it his way, he will return to Tampa. When asked if he was going to be back with Tom Brady and the Bucs next year, Gronk said, “Yeah, you got to.”

“I feel like this team was built to win right now,” he added. “I could definitely see this team having a lot of talent come back and having another successful run next year, as well, with me.”

Of course, the Bucs will also have a say in the matter. Brady will be under contract for another year and would doubtlessly like to see his favorite tight end return, but Tampa’s TE room could be crowded. Though O.J. Howard missed most of the season due to an Achilles tear, the team did exercise his fifth-year option for 2021, and since the option is guaranteed for injury, it seems as though the Bucs will have no choice but to keep Howard and his $6MM salary on the books.

Cameron Brate, meanwhile, is under contract through 2023, but the team could release him and save $6.5MM against the cap with no corresponding dead money charge. Assuming Gronkowski does decide to continue playing, the Bucs could part ways with Brate and re-sign Gronk. However, the team has plenty of other high-profile free agents to worry about, like WR Chris Godwin, OLB Shaquil Barrett and ILB Lavonte David. So Gronkowski probably can’t bank on the same $9MM salary he earned this season.

That probably doesn’t matter too much to him, as he was perfectly content to walk away from that salary completely when he announced his retirement in 2019. He returned only when he saw the opportunity to reunite with Brady in sunny Tampa, and he showed he still has some gas in the tank, catching 45 passes for 623 yards and seven scores in 16 regular season games. Pro Football Focus was not as high on his blocking prowess as it has been in years past, but he was certainly passable in that regard.

The moral of the story is that Gronkowski and the Bucs look like a good bet to continue their partnership for one more season, regardless of what happens in their divisional round bout with the Saints this evening.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs’ Rob Gronkowski Unsure About Retirement 

Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski says he isn’t sure if he’ll return for another year of football (Twitter link via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times). With that in mind, the Bucs’ upcoming game against the Washington Football Team could be his last.

[RELATED: Bucs Sign Bucannon To Practice Squad]

It’s just the start of playoffs right now. There’s always a time for that,” Gronkowski said.

Gronk plans to make the call roughly one month after the season ends. His first retirement came in the spring of 2019, citing physical pain and a lack of motivation. In his return to Tampa Bay, Gronk seems to have healed on both fronts. The 31-year-old has played in every game for the Bucs, catching 45 passes for 623 yards and seven scores. Those numbers aren’t as gaudy as his Pro Bowl years with the Patriots, but it’s clear that he still has plenty left in the tank.

It stands to reason that Gronk will want to continue playing alongside Tom Brady, but he won’t be bound to the Bucs either. The future Hall of Famer will be an unrestricted free agent in March, allowing him to play anywhere he wants — if he plays at all.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: Bucs, Forbath, Saints

Currently in the Buccaneers‘ concussion protocol, Chris Godwin may miss their Week 2 game against the Panthers. But the 2019 breakout wide receiver still looms as a candidate to sign a lucrative extension. The fourth-year wideout is willing to be patient ahead of his next contract, with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com noting (Insider link) the former third-round pick is willing to negotiate with the Bucs through the franchise tag or ahead of free agency. In April, Jason Licht said the team wants Godwin around for the long haul.

The Bucs already authorized a $16.5MM-per-year deal for Mike Evans — one of just two players ever to start a career with six straight 1,000-yard seasons (along with Randy Moss) — and the receiver market has ballooned since. A Godwin deal could come in north of $20MM annually, which would put Evans in a bit of a strange spot. With Godwin and Evans a big part of Tom Brady‘s two-year Tampa Bay commitment, the younger of the two Pro Bowl Bucs wideouts stands in good position as his contract season begins.

Here is the latest from Tampa and other NFC South cities:

  • Lavonte David began negotiating with the Bucs on another extension nearly three weeks ago. The sides have not made much progress, but Fowler notes David wants to retire as a Buccaneer. The 2012 second-round pick signed a five-year, $50.25MM deal in 2015. David joins Godwin as a contract-year Buccaneer, so the team will need to address one of these deals before free agency — in order to keep the franchise tag free for the other. David, 30, led all linebackers with 724 solo tackles during the 2010s and can conceivably push for a deal in the Bobby Wagner neighborhood ($18MM AAV).
  • Godwin and Evans represent a key reason why Leonard Fournette opted for a Tampa stay. The former Jaguars running back said the weapons the Bucs possess played a role in him agreeing to head to south Florida, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. As the centerpiece of the Jaguars’ offense for a while, Fournette faced stacked boxes on 39% of his carries from 2017-19, Palmer notes. Fournette received six touches in his Bucs debut but figures to become a bigger part of the offense in the games to come.
  • In addition to trading for Rob Gronkowski, the Bucs made another move to accommodate their new quarterback. They have given Brady’s trainer, Alex Guerrero, an office at their facility, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. The Patriots did this at one point too but removed the TB12 co-architect’s office later. Guerrero is working with Brady, Gronk and several other Bucs, per La Canfora, who adds that some believe the Pats souring on Guerrero helped lead Brady out of New England.
  • The Panthers worked out Kai Forbath on Thursday. Second-year kicker Joey Slye, whom the team went with over former Pro Bowler Graham Gano, made all three of his field goal tries in Week 1 but missed a PAT. Slye missed four extra points last season. Carolina does not have a kicker on its practice squad.
  • Panthers rookie UDFA Sam Franklin has moved from linebacker to safety, according to defensive coordinator Phil Snow (via The Athletic’s Joe Person, on Twitter). Franklin’s primary role still figures to be special teams this season. He played 18 special teams snaps against the Raiders compared to just two on defense.
  • The Saints worked out defensive lineman Anthony Zettel on Thursday. The journeyman D-lineman signed a one-year Vikings deal earlier this year but did not stick on their roster.

This Date In Transactions History: Rob Gronkowski Signs Record-Breaking Extension

Eight years ago today, Rob Gronkowski inked the most lucrative deal for a tight end in league history. The Patriots tacked another six years on to the two remaining seasons of his rookie contract at $54MM, locking him down through the 2019 campaign. 

[RELATED: Patriots Explored Cam Newton Deal?]

The deal made plenty of sense for both sides. With $13MM fully guaranteed and $18MM guaranteed for injury, the 23-year-old scored some serious financial security early in his career. Through his first two NFL seasons, the former second-round pick made less than $2.5MM in total.

Meanwhile, the Patriots locked down a tight end coming off of a First-Team All-Pro selection. Although he impressed as a rookie, Gronk took his game to a new level in 2011 as he caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns with a catch percentage of 72.6%. Even today, those numbers stand as Gronk’s career bests.

A broken forearm sidelined Gronkowski for five games in 2012. Shortly after returning, he re-aggravated the injury in the Pats’ first playoff game and missed out on the AFC Championship game. In the offseason, the forearm became infected, forcing the tight end to undergo the third and fourth surgeries of his career. In June of 2013, he had back surgery. Then, in a late-season contest against the Browns, he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. Gronk was undoubtedly grateful for his injury guarantees at that time.

There were more ailments to come, including a less serious knee injury in 2015 and a pulmonary contusion in 2016, but Gronkowski continued to be one of the very best at his position. Meanwhile, the salary cap continued to grow and the tight end market advanced. Over time, Gronk’s record-setting deal started to look more and more team-friendly. In 2014, Jimmy Graham signed a deal that made him the league’s highest-paid tight end with an average annual average value of $10MM and $16.5MM in full guarantees.

Eventually, something had to give. Prior to the 2017 season, the Pats tweaked Gronk’s deal to incentivize his performance while protecting the team against another injury-marred season. The deal gave him a base salary of $5.25MM with incentive packages at three different tiers:

  • A total salary of $10.75MM with either 90% play time or 80 catches or 1,200‪ receiving yards or an All-Pro nomination.
  • A total salary $8.75MM with 80% play time or 70 catches or 1,000 receiving yards or 12 touchdowns.
  • A total salary of $6.75MM with 70% play time or 60 receptions or 800 receiving yards or ten touchdowns.

With 1,084 yards (off of 69 receptions with eight touchdowns), Gronkowski satisfied the middle tier requirement. However, thanks to his First-Team All-Pro selection, the tight end maxed out his 2017 package. After that, Gronk asked the Pats to sweeten the pot once again, and they obliged with a similar incentives package worth up to $3.3MM for the 2018 season. The Patriots also came close to sending Gronk to the Lions, an indication that all was not well between the two sides.

The 2018 wound up being Gronkowski’s final season in a Patriots uniform. At the age of 29, Gronkowski retired. One year later, he pushed the Patriots to trade him to the Bucs, rebooting his bromance with longtime pal Tom Brady.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs Notes: Brady, TEs, OL, Free Agency

Tom Brady‘s transition to a new team in advance of his 21st NFL season has obviously been less than ideal, with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the future Hall of Famer from working with teammates and coaches at the Buccaneers‘ facility. The first time the soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback is expected to be permitted to enter his new team’s facilities will be training camp. But the Bucs do not plan to compensate for this by giving Brady more preseason work. Bruce Arians said Thursday he doubts Brady will need more preseason time to make up for the virtual offseason, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (on Twitter). Still, Brady’s preseason snaps figure to be more important than usual this year.

Here is the latest out of Tampa:

  • Arians has not gotten much out of the tight end position during his stay as head coach in Arizona and Tampa. That should soon change. The Bucs currently house an all-time tight end stable, with Rob Gronkowski joining the team’s O.J. HowardCameron Brate duo already regarded as one of the NFL’s best. Arians said the Bucs will use a two-tight end offense as their base this season (via Auman, on Twitter). Going with more “12 personnel” looks would give Howard and Brate more time on the field and potentially represent an effort to conserve Gronkowski, who retired partially because of injury issues last year. This also points to the Bucs giving stronger consideration to keeping all three tight ends rather than trading Howard or Brate. Arians even said he’s interested in three-tight end looks.
  • Tampa Bay is not expected to make a move to add interior offensive linemen to back up starters Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa and Ryan Jensen, Arians added (via Auman, on Twitter). The Bucs did not draft any guards or centers, but Arians likes what he has seen from backups Aaron Stinnie, Anthony Fabiano and Zack Bailey. A fifth-year blocker, Fabiano is now on his eighth team. Stinnie was a 2018 Titans UDFA; Bailey was a Bucs 2019 UDFA who spent much of last year on IR.
  • However, the Bucs are keeping multiple roster spots open for possible veteran additions. Arians said (via Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com, on Twitter) he and GM Jason Licht discussed saving room for veterans who would be more prepared to play than rookie UDFAs. With Brady on a two-year deal, Tampa Bay stockpiling vets would make sense.

Gronk: I Told Tom Brady I Wanted To Play Months Ago

Earlier this week, Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement and pushed the Patriots to trade him to the Buccaneers. Publicly, the tight end hid his intentions, but he says Tom Brady has known about his plans for a while now. 

[RELATED: Brady Didn’t Demand Gronk]

We rarely talked about what his decision was gonna be, where I’m at,” Gronkowski said of their winter talks (via ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine). “But we did talk about [it] for one second. I told him that — we talked just real quick — like, ‘Hey, I’m kinda getting that fire underneath me again.’

I said, ‘I’m definitely interested in your decision that you make.’ I didn’t put any pressure on him. I said, ‘If there’s a right opportunity out there, and you go somewhere and that opportunity is right – even if you go back to the Patriots and I feel like the opportunity is right – there’s a possible chance that I would definitely love to reconnect.'”

Brady, per Gronk, was “all fired up and juiced up” about the potential reunion. Now, they’ll look to pick up where they left off – the duo connected for 78 touchdowns across nine years together in New England. There should be plenty more to come, with better weather to boot.

Of course, this won’t be welcome news to fans in New England who were clamoring for Gronk last season. While the veteran’s 2018 campaign (47 receptions, 682 yards, three touchdowns) weren’t up to his normal standards, they still proved to be better than the numbers put up by New England’s tight ends in 2019. The Patriots got 36 receptions and two touchdowns from the trio of Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, and Ryan Izzo last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.