On Tuesday, April 21, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Rob Gronkowski informed the New England Patriots that he wanted to play football again, but not in Foxborough. Gronkowski wanted to continue his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady.
After Rapoport’s initial report, breaking news came in quickly from ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Fox’s Jay Glazer. Glazer reported that Gronkowski already took and passed a physical for the Buccaneers, suggesting the foundation for a trade began long before Tuesday.
New England needed to agree to trade Gronkowski to Tampa Bay because a year remained on his contract. Players’ contracts freeze when they retire, but the contracts become active again if a player returns to the NFL. A similar situation occurred a few years ago when Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement to play for the Oakland Raiders.
The deal in place sends Gronkowski, the ten million dollars left on his contract, and a seventh-round pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for a fourth-rounder. Despite the deal, the Buccaneers still hold another fourth-round selection in 2020. Schefter reported the trade details first.
The exchange makes sense for both teams. Gronkowski served no purpose in New England, and he would’ve remained in retirement if the team refused his trade request. Essentially, the Patriots receive a fourth-round pick in exchange for an inactive player.
On the other hand, Tampa Bay gets a future Hall of Fame tight end who built a strong connection with Brady in New England. However, the move likely means Tampa Bay will trade either Cameron Brate or O.J. Howard before the start of the 2020 regular season.
The Buccaneers drafted Howard with the 19th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, the Alabama product regularly battled injuries and never fulfilled his potential during his first three seasons. Over the past three years, Howard accumulated 94 receptions for 1,456 yards and 12 touchdowns, compared to Brate’s 114 receptions for 1,191 yards and 16 touchdowns.
If Tampa Bay moves quickly, the team can trade either Howard or Brate before Thursday’s opening round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
However, Gronkowski is far from becoming a guaranteed star in Tampa Bay. The four-time First-Team All-Pro missed 13 games during the final three years of his career, and he retired over a year ago, following New England’s victory in Super Bowl LIII.
After news of the pending trade broke, Gronkowski told Glazer, “I’m back. I always said when I have that feeling and it feels right, I will be ready to take the field again. And I have that feeling. I’m ready.”
Time will tell if Gronkowski can recapture any of his former glory with Brady in Tampa Bay. Either way, the soon-to-be 31-year-old brings an added level of excitement to a team that’s gearing up for a deep playoff run.