Exploring A Gronkless 2022

May 15th, 2022

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What if he says no thanks?

Suppose Rob Gronkowski says no mas, rebuffing pleas by Tom Brady and the Buc organization to return for one more championship run.

It’s not like Gronkowski doesn’t have options. He’s an audience magnet who would generate tremendous interest from TV executives and big screen producers.

The man is pure box office and at the moment, he’s got an entire franchise in a box, trying to nail down a contract for the 2022 season — likely to be Brady’s last year as a Buccaneer.

The odds are Gronkowski and Brady already know No. 87 is coming back.

He’ll probably waltz into One Buc Place on the first day of training camp and work his way into shape. That would be a banner day for Tampa Bay fans, but it’s not a done deal until there’s a signature on the dotted line.

As we’ve learned in the past two years, Brady can be very persuasive. He lured Gronkowski back to the NFL after a one-year absence and sold free agent Russell Gage on the Bucs, despite knowing he’ll be the third option at wide receiver once Chris Godwin returns.

Brady’s quite the pitchman, but Gronkowski may have other plans. Think about it. If “The Rock” can make a fortune starring in action movies at the age of 50, imagine what kind of loot “The Gronk” can pull from the silver screen at age 33.

And if Gronk chooses a different career path, where does that leave Brady and the Bucs? In full scramble mode, that’s where.

Cameron Brate is a nice backup tight end, but he hasn’t been a starter since 2016. That’s an eternity by NFL standards. The Dirk Koetter era was just getting started, rookie bust Roberto Aguayo was missing field goals and Tampa Bay’s leading rusher was Jacquizz Rodgers.

In the past four years, Brate has averaged less than 10 yards per reception. In Gronkowski’s last two seasons, his average yards per catch is 14.25. Brate is a willing blocker … Gronkowski is a terrific blocker. Gronkowski’s potential absence would probably be felt most significantly in Tampa Bay’s running game.

Next up could be rookie Cade Otton, a fourth-round pick who displayed some nice hands and route-running ability at the University of Washington. Otton will need more strength to be an effective blocker at the pro level and the Bucs don’t want to immediately rely on a prospect who lasted until Day 3.

Four Name Options

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the winds of available free agents.

Jared Cook could be one of many viable Gronk alternatives, writes Ira Kaufman.

Heading that list is a veteran tight end very familiar to Buc fans. At the age of 35, Jared Cook is still out there, wondering if there’s a seventh team interested in his services.

The Chargers let him go after one year, but in his two previous seasons, Cook caught 80 passes for 1.209 yards and 16 touchdowns for New Orleans.

Cook was victimized on the game’s signature play when the Bucs beat the Saints 30-20 in a divisional-round playoff matchup en route to a championship. New Orleans led 20-13 in the third quarter and seemed to have all the momentum until Drew Brees completed a third-down pass to Cook crossing midfield.

Enter rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who punched the ball out of Cook’s grip. Devin White scooped up the fumble, the Bucs drove for the tying score and never looked back.

Kyle Rudolph is still a free agent, along with Eric Ebron, the 10th pick in the 2014 draft. Ebron caught 13 TD passes for Indy in 2018.

The Cowboys just parted ways with Blake Jarwin, who was supposed to be their long-term answer at tight end.

All three are trying to rebound from serious injuries.

Had Gronkowski announced his retirement right after the season, the Bucs might have made a move for Zach Ertz, who ended up re-signing with Arizona. Mike Gesicki (Miami), Dalton Schultz (Dallas) and David Njoki (Cleveland) were all franchised.

Ten weeks away from the start of training camp, the Bucs say they remain uncertain about Gronkowski’s status. His impact as a red-zone target and fierce blocker is difficult to overstate. He loves football and he loves playing with No. 12, so he’ll probably be back.


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Ira drives a 2020 Ford Escape (cherry red).

29 Responses to “Exploring A Gronkless 2022”

  1. Bojim Says:

    Ko Kieft can block.

  2. D-Rok Says:

    Probably be back? Probably. Add in there hopefully and we have a hopeful probability.

  3. Bucs Win Says:

    Gronk will sign eventually.

  4. Leighroy Says:

    That’s not as dire of a FA list beyond Gronk than I thought. I’d pass on Cook and Jarwin and roll instead w either Njoku (the correct spelling) or Rudolph if it comes to that, heaven forbid it.

  5. Bucsfan4ever Says:

    I think we are gonna be ok.

  6. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Thank you Ira, for continuing the “Gronk-a-day” article tradition at JBF…..

    We wouldn’t be complete without them…..

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    D-Rok … Appreciate you clearing that up. I was beginning to wonder IF Gronk would be back after reading Ira’s article.

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    Oh and D-Rok, newsflash … Joes are busily penning a follow-up piece titled ‘Suh Might Return’ in response to Sage going out on a limb regarding Gronk. The suspense is killing me.

  9. View from 132 Says:

    If you are in Gronk’s position and age, why wouldn’t you just wait out the first half of the season? If the Bucs are in position to make a run, you sign and avoid preseason, summer heat and a trip to Germany… but still are there when it matters and your rookie TE is hitting the wall.

  10. Dman Says:

    Screw Gronk and let’s stop begging for Pete’s sake. The guys had plenty of time to think about it. He’s not on the roster. OTA’s start next week. I could care less this point.

  11. D-Rok Says:

    LOL, DR. LOL. Personally, I would be quite disappointed if Gronk isn’t playing for the Bucs this year.

  12. Rod Munch Says:

    Gronk had better be there, because without him you’re starting Brate – and that would be a disaster. As for the rookies, TE is one of the hardest positions in football to learn, and rarely do young guys play well early on. The best advice might be to play the 6th rounder, purely as an extra tackle, and don’t even bother trying to teach him to run routes yet.

    But hopefully that’s not an issue.

    If Gronk doesn’t come back then the Bucs will need more offensive horsepower because Gronk is a huge part of the Bucs offense. To me, that only means one thing, resign AB.

  13. steele Says:

    Truth is, there is TE available at this late stage with a complete game. No Gronk replacement who is great at both pass catching and blocking. No Gronk, and you lose that single guy X-factor.

    If Kieft is the sledgehammer he should be, there’s the blocking, but he’s a rookie, and it’s pretty obvious when he’s used. Pray that he is the breakout star of the year, and turns out to be a good pass catcher, too.

    Who’s the move target? Brate’s okay, that’s about it. Otton, complete unknown and rook.

    Kyle Rudolph, Jared Cook, Ebron? Okay, but with all of the needs on D, is there $ for it?

  14. D-Rok Says:

    The issue as I see it, is that in Gronk, you have a complete TE. He’s diminished now, not quite so fast, but still excellent, judging by his performance for 17 games last year. Elite at routes, at catching, at blocking. He’s 3 guys in one player, and that’s what makes him so valuable. He’s a unique player. Maybe not the GOAT at his position, but right up there at least in the top 5 of the history of the league. Right now we have 3 guys that may be able to do everything Gronky can do, but split between 3 players. Man I hope Gronk comes back for one last run at a ring. Am I wrong?

  15. steele Says:

    There’s also…Codey McElroy.

  16. D-Rok Says:

    I would love to see trips right with Miller, Perriman, Grayson; Evans on left. Single back-set with either Lenny or White (assuming White becomes a reliable player in the league). That’s insane speed in that trips.

    Also imagine 1-back set with 4 TE’s. Sorry, I’m just drawing up plays in my head to due excitement over the possibilities. What do I know?

  17. Defense Rules Says:

    D-Rok … ‘Also imagine 1-back set with 4 TE’s’. OK, you’ve officially lost it. When you include our 5 OLinemen & 1 QB, you’ve just taken all the WRs off the field. Meaning that you just sat Mike Evans, Chris Godwin & Russell Gage on the bench in favor of Cam Brate, Codey McElroy, Cade Otton, and Ko Kieft.

    Am I to assume that the play will be for everyone to run forward, beat the daylights out of whoever is in front of them, and then Brady throws it to the ‘Last Man Standing’? Tim Allen would be proud.

  18. GOB Says:

    If the bucs didn’t expect Gronk back, they would’ve done more in the TE market. They are thin even with him, as he’s a walking blue tent. The offense became very Gronk centric last year, and that’s a bad thing. In the games gronk missed last season, bucs TEs had 10 catches on 29 targets. You can’t function for long with that lack of production. I love Gronk, but he’s far from dependable.

  19. Tim R. Says:

    I’m sick and tired of his playing a game with us. It’s time to move on and begin finding the new tight end that’s for real. We will be able to come up with his replacement.

  20. Winny Testaverde Says:

    For what it’s worth…which is likely the equivalent of the paper I’m posting this on…Gronk replied cryptically to a Fournette tweet declaring “watching from the stands”. Fair enough…he’s a first ballot hall of famer and helped secure Super Bowl # 2 for Tampa. If he’s waffling…best to retire than play half hearted and get hurt. Give that loot to Suh and get ready to be more of a running team.

  21. D-Rok Says:

    DR, am I really insane? In the playoffs, game on the line, no team has film on us in a 1-back set with 4 TE’s. On the goal-line. As a defense, what you gonna do?

    Further pontificating, how are defenses gonna defend a 4 TE set? If they can substitute, D will bring in massive meat, of course. Can Brate get 10 yards deep? What about Gronk? Ko can max-protect and Otton can release. And of course, all the DB’s will easily defend this, leaving 1-1 with whomever comes out of our backfield. This set is not as insane as one would think. How wild was Philly Special when it was first seen? Sometimes, I think outside the box bro. Especially with our 3 TE’s currently on roster, then hopefully add Gronk.

  22. Tim R. Says:

    It’s time to turn Brate loose on routes. He is faster than Gronk. Allow him to run longer passing patterns. He will get open.

  23. Defense Rules Says:

    D-Rok … I didn’t say you were insane; just said you’ve officially lost it (probably shouldn’t have thrown in the ‘officially’ huh?). And I noticed that in your explanation you had Gronk in there instead of rookie Ko Kieft (poor Ko got left out of yours). I didn’t assume that Gronk was re-signed when I responded.

    Oh and congrats D-Rok on thinking outside the box BTW. Personally I never realized that we had a box to think inside of, but armed with that knowledge I now feel that I’ve been deprived. I’ll probably spend the rest of the night searching for it on the internet. And it’ll be your fault.

  24. D-Rok Says:

    O yes of course I’m insane. Football insane. I know I mentioned my 4 TE sets crazy idea (are you LISTENING, Bowles?) but my precedent was Philly Special. Did you not realize I mentioned trips right with 3 BURNERS in Grayson, Miller, and Perriman? How cray-cray would that set be? Of course, the 3 WR’s would go upfield, clearing out underneath coverage. Leaving, of course, the PA run or the PA swing pass to the flat. Guaranteed 5 yards a play minimum. The key is to not show this set more than 5% of plays.

  25. DavidBigBucFan99 Says:

    Training camp or just before

  26. DavidBigBucFan99 Says:

    Joe’s mahaderation needs mahaderation

  27. Stanglassman Says:

    Any news on Otten’s health? Will he be ready for training camp? Everyone seems to think Otten will be heathy for camp but Godwin won’t be ready until mid November. My guess is they’ll both be playing opening day. I doubt either will be fully healthy. It would be best to be able to ease these guys back and not have to fully rely on them.

  28. Chris Tucker@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    I can hardly believe how much Traction this Gronk will not be back story is getting.
    Of course he will be back, why would he not be ?

  29. Bigz Says:

    I wanted Ertz. Would have be perfect for us. Bummed when he signed back with AZ. Yes We are in trouble at TE. The draft did not address that position. And Gronk just whipping himself in shape in camp with his wear and tear.. age, etc. Is not a good plan. Sports at this level is all mental. Seems like he checked out at the rib injury. Really, what more does he need to accomplish? I would like for us to have moved on. Wanted Ruckert in 3rd but…we passed.