By Arnie Leshin
New England Patriots had no choice as retired tight end Rob Gronkowski hooks up again with Tom Brady.
Only a physical before Thursday night‘s 3-day NFL College football draft will make this a done deal, with Gronkowski now un-retired after refusing to resign with New England after hanging up his cleats in 2019, and instead requesting a trade to Brady’s new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Much of this centered on the 43-year-old Brady teaming up again with his favorite receiver who turns 31 on May 14. A proposed trade would bring the Bucs a seventh round pick in exchange for a fourth round selection.
While Brady continues his remarkable career in sunny Florida by signing a two-year $50 million contract with Tampa Bay last month, Gronkowski still has one year left on his contract at $10 million, and he will honor that at this time. He was a second round choice of the Pats in 2010, while Brady was selected way back in the sixth round and that’s history for no doubt one of the finest quarterbacks to lace up his shoes.
As for Gronkowski, he has been a five-time Pro Bowl selection, has reeled in 521 passes for 7,861 yards, and has scored 79 touchdowns in 115 regular-season games. In 16 playoff tilts, he has caught 81 throws for 1,163 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Now, even with the addition of the sure-handed physical and talkative Gronkowski, his position of tight end has been considered one of Tampa Bay’s biggest strength, what with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate teaming with Pro-Bowl receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
This gives Brady probably the best collection of targets he’s had to work with in more than a decade. Without his favorite target, he had one of his worse non-injury seasons last year, throwing for 4,057 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Bucs were his first choice when he became a free agent after two decades in the cold and snowy New England. He has won six Super Bowls. He has been named to the All-Pro team 14 times, has a long list of NFL records, and plus he brings leadership to Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers are coming off a 7-9 campaign and missed the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season. They haven’t won a playoff game since the franchise’s only Super Bowl championship run under head coach Jon Gruden in 2002. But now they have a cast headed by Brady, who had no problem passing the Bucs’ physical, and arrived with confidence as he did when leading Michigan past Alabama in two overtimes of the 2000 Orange Bowl Classic in Miami.
Gronkowski was All-Pro in 2011, 2014, 2015, and 2017. In 2018, his final season with the Patriots, he pulled down 43 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns. Now he follows the new path of Brady buddy, and once again they are united. And with this new look,Tampa Bay might well be the best team in the Sunshine State over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins.