TAMPA, Fla. — As soon as Tom Brady announced his return for another season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the focus turned to one of his favorite targets on the field, tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Unfortunately, it was not to be as the future Hall of Fame tight end announced his retirement on Tuesday.
“Gronk” as he’s affectionately known around the sports world, finished his contract in Tampa at the end of last season and was officially a free agent.
Last season, he started 12 games and caught 55 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns. According to pro-football-reference, Gronk caught 62% of the passes he was targeted on last season, up from 58% the season before. He also averaged 67 yards receiving per game for the season.
For his career between Tampa and New England, Gronkowski finished with 621 catches for 9,286 yards and 92 touchdowns in the regular season and 98 catches for 1,389 yards and 15 touchdowns in the playoffs. He was also an All-Pro four times and a pro bowler five times.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht issued a statement about Gronk saying he was a "true professional who left it all on the field for us the past two seasons and helped establish a championship culture in our building...While his on-field accomplishments will surely earn him a gold jacket and a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it is his humble attitude and team-first approach to the game that truly defined his career."
"Rob is a true professional who left it all on the field for us the past two seasons and helped establish a championship culture in our building."— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) June 21, 2022
🗣: @jasonrlicht on @RobGronkowski pic.twitter.com/RWbPhHqYJa
With Gronk out, the Bucs have a large hole at tight end as the offseason moves ahead. The Bucs' only tight end with more than one season of experience is Cameron Brate.
Looking at the available free agents, there are some bigger names on the list including Jimmy Graham, Eric Ebron, Kyle Rudolph, Jared Cook, and others. But none of them would have the same impact on the game that Gronk did.
The Buccaneers have a little more than $10 million in cap space to sign a free agent or the team could try to trade for another tight end.