Arguably the greatest tight end of all time, Rob Gronkowski called it a career (again). Fortunately, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in good shape thanks to a smart readiness for the inevitable.
Rob Gronkowski decided to hang up the cleats again and call it a career, and this time it looks like it’s permanent. The news was first reported on Twitter by Jordan Schultz.
Naturally, some were starting to panic about what would happen in the future tight end mode of piracy. In the words of Kevin Bacon in animal house“Keep calm. It’s all right.”
Jason Licht and company have done an amazing job preparing for life in Tampa Bay if Gronk, arguably the greatest tight end in NFL history and second-greatest in Buccaneers history, decides to return, or if he decides to go into the sunset.
The Bucs have forged two tight ends, and both complement each other nicely. Fourth-round pick Cade Otton is the more natural receiver, with great post-grab running skills. Meanwhile, Ko Kift, the tight end they drafted in the sixth round, is an absolute bowling ball with a tight end, and its biggest strength is its fending off. Both narrow ends together basically equal one Gronk as far as better skill sets are concerned. We’ll obviously have to wait and see what comes out of production.
Sure, neither of them were seen as “first-round talents” and their recruiting points reflected that way, but with tight ends it didn’t matter. Big tight ends are rarely drafted in the first round or even in any early rounds at all. On top of that, with Tom Brady throwing the soccer ball to them, they’ll enter the league with something of a silver spoon.
They will also have a maven presence to guide them. Nobody captures the point of tight ends that don’t need to be first-round talents from Cameron Pratt. Unpolished Brate again appears to be the tight starting point. Of course, this isn’t as “glamorous” as Gronkowski being at the top of the depth chart, but there are much worse situations on the tight end.
Now, even though he may not get the recognition he deserves throughout the league, Bucs fans have come to appreciate how reliable the ol is for them. The Ivy Leaguer never runs out of time, and if the best ability really is availability, go ahead and outfit him with his gold jacket. Now that it’s a de facto start, Brate is in a great position (Brate?) to thrive thanks to the growing relationship he’s developed with Brady.
As we noted earlier, the Brady is probably the biggest reason why the tight end room is so well-placed. Throughout his career, he’s always made his tight ends better, like any other position on the team, which is why every team he’s on has been able to tap multiple players in the same position simultaneously.
For what it’s worth, the idea of two novice tight ends and an old veteran might not sound ideal. However, in 2010, the New England Patriots had old Alge Crumpler on tight ends to go along with two non-first-round rookies at Gronk and Aaron Hernandez. The following year, Brady and the tight guys were at the Super Bowl. Do whatever you want with it.
The news of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement can be very difficult to absorb and process. The instinct may be to comb the free agent market, but the way they’ve already prepared, it may not be entirely necessary. Once the initial wave of emotions subsided, clear eyes could see that the Tampa Bay Pirates were still doing well, even with their full hearts out.