The Buccaneers have done a great job at bringing back players that were free agents as they pursue another Super Bowl in 2022.
One-piece missing so far is tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has not yet decided if he will play in 2022 or retire.
Gronkowski has said that if he plays for anyone in 2022, it will most likely be for the Buccaneers. But with Gronkowski not under contract and the NFL draft coming up, that puts the Bucs in a tough spot.
Do they wait on Gronk, only to possibly be disappointed when he officially retires? Or do they draft a tight end in this year’s draft?
Gronkowski has had a significant impact in his two years in Tampa. He has 100 catches, and 13 touchdown passes in his two years with the Buccaneers.
Without Gronkowski, the tight end room consists of Cameron Brate and Codey McElroy. That is it. OJ Howard is gone as he signed with Buffalo when free agency opened.
The options available in free agency are limited. Jared Cook is still available, but he is 35 years old and on the backside of his career. Jimmy Graham is available, but again is 35 years old, and his best playing days are behind him.
Eric Ebron is a free agent but is coming off a season where he played only eight games with Pittsburgh and caught 12 passes.
With Arians as a coach, the Buccaneer’s tight ends were an essential piece of the offense. Without Gronkowski, someone will have to pick up the production of the tight ends.
The Bucs will need someone other than Braate and McElroy.
Whether or not the Bucs sign Gronkowski, they would be wise to take a tight end like Trey McBride in this week’s draft. McBride led all tight ends in catches last season with 90.
He is also excellent after the catch, as he averaged 5.5 YAC over the last four years.
McBride was also the John Mackey Award winner in 2021.
McBride is an excellent receiver, but he is also a good blocker, especially in the run game, which is required in the Buccaneer’s offense.
Not being able to block effectively cost OJ Howard a lot of playing time and a new contract in Tampa.
McBride can also line up at different spots on the field. At Colorado State, McBride lined up wide, in the slot, and even in the backfield.
He also does not shy away from special teams’ play, which can help young players secure a roster spot.
Do the Bucs need to resign Gronk? Yes. I think they will sign Gronk if he wants to play.
I think he has already indicated to Jason Licht and the front office his intentions, and I think he will be back.
Today’s veteran NFL player despises OTA’s, mini-camps, and even training camp. These athletes today keep themselves in peak condition all year round. Missing OTA’s is not something that will affect their play on the field one way or another.
The Bucs need to get Gronkowski signed, which I think they will.
Thursday Night, they need to draft Trey McBride in the second round and start planning for life after Gronk.