Time For Rookie Tight Ends To Earn Their Keep… Maybe

June 22nd, 2022

Bucs TE Cade Otton.

OK, Joe is going to go ahead and type this.

Either Bucs AC/DC-loving general manager Jason Licht has another move up his sleeve (trade or free agent signing) or he has a strong belief that foot-rubbing tight end Rob Gronkowski’s retired-maybe is a money-angled power play scheme hatched by his agent oily Drew Rosenhaus.

Think about it: Licht has known for months Gronk may not return. And with a team very much in the hunt for another Super Bowl title, Joe finds it difficult to believe Licht would bank on two rookie third-day draft picks (and Cam Brate) to be a major part of the Bucs’ offense at tight end. Especially in very likely the final year the Bucs have Tom Brady and one of the rookies is coming off ankle surgery.

Surely Licht has a Plan-B ready to pull the trigger on, no?

Well, Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports believes the answer very well could be “no.”

Trapasso thinks with Gronk now retired (?), that means more snaps for rookie tight end Cade Otton, who will demonstrate Licht’s mastery of player evaluation.

In Trapasso’s list of productive rookie tight ends for this fall, he has Otton at No. 3.

3. Cade Otton, Buccaneers

Suddenly, Otton is the de facto No. 2 tight end in Tampa Bay without any major threat of Rob Gronkowski returning, at least for the first few months of the season. Cameron Brate is still hanging around, and while he’s flashed, the Harvard product hasn’t reached 50 catches in a regular season since 2016, and he’ll be 31 in July.

Otton is a throwback type, a thick, blue-collar blocker who’s like an ox in the open field with the ball in his hands. He was surprisingly small at the combine — just 247 pounds — yet his four years as a steady pass-catching contributor in Washington’s run-heavy offense indicates he has what it takes to be a quality underneath, mostly chain-moving option for Tom Brady in Tampa Bay’s aerial attack. There’s not much upside to his game because Otton’s not a supremely gifted athlete. Brady loves utilizing tight ends to extend drives. Otton is aligned to have an underrated productive rookie year.

Well, Joe isn’t ready to jump the route here. Joe has high hopes for Otton but really, how can Joe expect a rookie fourth-round pick who has yet to practice because of his surgically-repaired ankle to put up numbers remotely close to Gronk’s?

That just seems like a whole lot of hope and prayer there. Cool for a team that’s rebuilding; very uncool for a Super Bowl contender.

Yeah, Joe knows the Bucs won a Super Bowl with two rookies starting. One was the 13th pick in the draft (Tristan Wirfs). The other was a second-round pick at 45th overall (Antoine Winfield). Both played in the Big Ten. Both were healthy when drafted.

Otton was the 106th overall pick this spring. He played in the PAC-12.

Joe thinks a Super Bowl contender banking on Otton to be a major factor in the passing game is like walking out on a frozen lake when it’s above 50 degrees. You better have your pockets full of rabbits feet and four-leaf clovers if you don’t want to get all wet.

Always remember and never forget what the great 20th-century philosopher Bobby Knight said about hope.

Joe is keenly interested to see Licht’s Plan-B.

72 Responses to “Time For Rookie Tight Ends To Earn Their Keep… Maybe”

  1. GOB Says:

    Licht had to believe Gronk would return. If he didn’t, he was negligent at the position. Gronk did this to the Patriots too. Stringing them along, until other free agent options were gone. I think he did it intentionally to hurt NE, but why do it to Tampa. Why couldn’t he have made this decision months ago? It now puts them in a bind at the position.

  2. A Bucs Fan Says:

    I personally think Gronk is completely done (wise decision for his health) but perhaps he really wants to skip camp and joins before week 1?

  3. Guinness8 Says:

    I’m starting to get a little worried about the offense. If Mike goes down at the beginning of the season, and no Godwin or Gronk. We could be in a bit of trouble.
    Stay healthy Mike!

  4. Pickgrin Says:

    ” third-day draft pick”

    Otton was 1 pick away from being a 3rd rd pick and thus a “day 2 draft pick”.

  5. Goatfarmer Says:

    Otton is injured and looks like he’s 14 years old.


    Licht is playing it cool. Now is not the time to sign a guy like Rudolph – right after Gronk announcement, he would command more money than he’s worth. Just wait. Maybe Gronk comes back or maybe someone good gets disgruntled and gets cut.

    But Otton? Please.

  6. Joe Says:

    Otton was 1 pick away from being a 3rd rd pick and thus a “day 2 draft pick”.

    Alas, he was selected on the third day. 🤷‍♂️

    Three-plus-two isn’t four.

  7. BillyBucco Says:

    Yeah but he wasn’t.
    Point is he isn’t an early round guy you put your HOPE in.

  8. Kalind Says:

    This could be a sneaky brilliant move by both parties. Let Gronk work out stay in shape, and avoid hits. Then rush in towards the end of the year providing a lift for the offense, (especially in the case of an injury) at the best possible time. I kinda love it TBH.

  9. firethecannons Says:

    Joe writes :You better have your pockets full of rabbits feet and four-leaf clovers.

    Yeah no doubt! It is always like that for the Bucs. We need to get somebody with that spare change. Linebacker depth?

  10. GOB Says:

    It was not a strong TE draft. I see both of the TEs licht selected as projects. They may turn into fine players. If they stand pat at the position, they’re in trouble. Brady has never been without a quality TE for any length of time, going all the way back to Ben Watson. In parts of six games that Gronk missed last year, bucs TEs had 10 catches on 29 targets.

  11. SB~LV Says:

    Kid needs 365 days of NFL diet and weight training, if he can contribute every now and then this year I’ll be happy

  12. Chris Tucker@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    Licht did draft 2 tight ends, so we have no choice but to give them a try.
    I watched some film on Otton, after the JBF article on him, and guess what ?
    He put up some very good film, and would have been drafted much higher, had he not been injured his senior year.
    LOL, this post will probable make it to moderation, because the phrase JBF seems to trigger the moderation filters, and I do not blame the Joes for keeping an eye of what is said about JBF! Both of them have worked very very hard to make this place the great place it is today!

  13. Mike Johnson Says:

    Th big question left is..Who can step up and give us at least 80% of what Gronk gave us? Brady to Gronk was one of if not the best connections in the league.

  14. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    OK…we had a first round TE playing for us….producing practically nothing.

    Licht had all night and part of the day to select any player remaining on day 3….probably had many trade opportunities, yet he picked Otten……I think the only reason he didn’t go earlier was his injury. And, that is the key….if he’s healthy enough to get some practice in with Brady….he could be productive.

    We have some money that was earmarked for Gronk…..so, Joe….would you rather have a FA TE or an edge rusher?

  15. 1sparkybuc Says:

    Show me the paperwork that Gronk turned in to the league office, and then I will believe he is actually retired. He and Brady are too close to league records as a tandem for him to quit now. I can just visualize the two of them planning their fake retirements. “Yeah Tom, you retire first and then change your mind, and then I’ll retire.”

  16. Joe Says:

    We have some money that was earmarked for Gronk…..so, Joe….would you rather have a FA TE or an edge rusher?

    Right now the Bucs have starters at edge. And they just lost 800+ yards in passing offense and a crushing blocker. Need is at TE.

  17. Allbuccedup Says:

    Brate is the only experienced TE, so he goes down you are in trouble. So I am sure JL is working the phones for a possible trade or listening to price tags of remaining FA TEs.

  18. Ash Says:

    They won’t sign another gronk anyone left isn’t better than brate at this point I don’t think they sign another tightend maybe edge or linebacker depth

  19. Bird Says:

    Cause of ankle injury, this dude is behind in getting ready for big boy football
    Especially physically

    He does look like he just got drivers license

    And jason licht doesn’t have two wait to sign tight end. Rudolph and most others available besides ebron are in their 30’s and would jump at chance to play with brady and opportunity for super bowl They will sign for pennies

  20. Dick LeBeau Jr. Says:

    Wow. Really? If our TEs can all contribute a total of 1000 yds, we’ll be fine. I think we’ll be fine if they don’t. I believe too much weight is being put into this position. How about we wait and see what we have when the pads are on and in preseason. Stop wetting your diappies before we see these young guys play. Sheesh.

  21. Listnfrmafar Says:

    In 2021 Gronk had more yards than all but 4 TE’s in the league and pre-injury was tracking to have more total yards than all TE except Mark Andrews. He had 6 tds that tied arguably the best TE in the NFL Kittle who played two more games than Gronk. His production CANNOT be replaced that easily. Bucs fans need to pray this guy is playing possum. According to GOB, Gronks washed up.

  22. zzbucs Says:

    We had brate and McElroy, we drafted two more TE…..Maybe Jason Licht already knew Gronk was not coming back……

    Didn´t make much sense to draft two TE……..

    So let´s hope they drafted correctly if not, we should expect something to happen on the market…..

  23. SRQ Bucs Fan Says:

    Hope is not a strategy…

  24. Bird Says:

    Rudolph , cook and ebron or maybe saints tight end that fumbled the ball against us 😂

    Trust me. Licht has reached out to brady and overnighted game film on all
    Maybe jimmie graham too

    Brady will pick who he thinks will fit in best as this will be one year deal coming as all older (except ebron).

  25. Joe Says:

    Hope is not a strategy…


  26. Joe Says:

    If our TEs can all contribute a total of 1000 yds, we’ll be fine.

    Yeah well, two of those TEs are looking for their first NFL catch. Provided they are healthy. Provided they make the team.

  27. PassingThru Says:

    Neither rookie TE should be expected to function as a TE1 this season; Otton, at least to me, seems to project to be a good quality TE2, and that may not be until after his rookie season. And Joe is right, Kieft in particular isn’t a lock to make the team.

    Let’s hope Licht can find a trade partner. A productive, vet TE is needed.

  28. PassingThru Says:

    Time for the mandatory Suh post:

    Let’s invite Suh to a tryout at TE.

  29. Defense Rules Says:

    Personally I’m more excited about Ko Kieft than I am about Cade Otton. Ko is a friggin bulldozer, and I’m guessing that he’ll see lots of playing time at both TE & fullback. And TB12 might even let him touch the ball once or twice.

    Otton’s college numbers are a little bewildering. Played in all 14 games for Washington in 2018, starting 10. Started all 13 games in 2019, and every game in the 2020 season too. But in 2021 he only played in 8 of Washington’s 12 games (missed 2 games early-on due to COVID & the last 2 games due to injury). Supposedly has soft hands & a good route runner, but lacks speed & explosiveness; apparently needs to work on his strength to become a dominant blocker. Reputation as a hard worker & student of the game. Hard to know what to expect out of him as a rookie, but down the line he sounds like a keeper.

  30. Defense Rules Says:

    zzbucs … I doubt McElroy will make the team. If Gronk doesn’t reappear, JL will replace him with another TE, and we’ll roll with whoever that is PLUS Brate, Kieft & Otton.

    PassingThru … Kieft is Todd Bowles type of player. He’ll make the team, unless he gets injured. I’m more concerned about Otton ending up on PUP or IR.

  31. BucsfanFred Says:

    The more I think about this the more I think gronk wants to play half the tear, but collect the whole years pay.

  32. PassingThru Says:

    Kieft’s ceiling is a Y TE who will sometimes sneak in a catch or two during a game to keep defenses honest. I like that he catches with his hands, so he’s not a klutz, but you’re not going to see much production out of him.

  33. Bucs Guy Says:

    Michael Mayer – Notre Dame tight end in the 2023 draft.

  34. Beeej Says:

    I don’t think Gronk is done because he’s so close to 100 td’s

  35. Mort Says:

    We got that kid outta Yale! We good!

  36. Hoops Says:

    Fans keep talking about veteran TEs, but Brate is one. He’s played through a bunch of injuries and he’s been reliable catching the ball for 8 seasons now. He said he’s finally healthy and feeling the best he’s felt in a couple years. I say go with Brate and those two rooks.

  37. PassingThru Says:

    Brate is not a TE1. Brate is good for 250 to 300 yards per season.

    Of course, it is possible that all 3 TEs could reach a total of 1000 yards. Bowles will just have to play 2 TEs at a time on every snap and have Brady settle for lots of 5-yard passes.

  38. SRQ Bucs Fan Says:

    Best Bucs Gronk memory is him spiking the ball and Tristan Wirfs turning away cowering so as not to get blasted by the ball. Classic Gronk!

  39. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    So…..TE or Edge help……perhaps we can have both……..with savings from Gronk, Pinion, SUccop…..maybe we’ll have $6 mil each for 2 players…..

  40. BucsfanFred Says:

    Joe says 3+2 does not equal 4.
    I say have you seen these crazy things they teach the kids in today’s math classes???
    Equity math

  41. BucsfanFred Says:

    Not equal math

  42. Tampabaybucfan Says:


    Jim had 3 apples & Mary had two….how many apples did they have combined…

    Answer: Doesn’t matter…..Jim had more apples and that wasn’t fair.

  43. PassingThru Says:


    There’s more money than that available. Team cap space is around $13.3 million, and Licht can harvest more by restructuring Donovan Smith. The Bucs are probably going to generate another $9 million per season with the additional seating capacity, and though that isn’t part of a team cap calculation, it shows that ownership is making lots of money.

    It comes down to the Glazer family. Do they want to go all in? It’s not my money, nor is it Licht’s. They have to make the call as to whether they want to absorb a TE salary via trade, and whether they want to sign someone like Trey Flowers.

  44. RPK Says:

    Gronk is obvi coming back guys! Which sports book will let me put $$ on it?

    Oily Drew wouldn’t tease a return without Gronk signing off on it.

    Do we really need him for week 1-8?

    I’d rather him come back mid-season and be at peak performance by playoffs if that means he stays healthy.

    Get the other guys tons of reps and keep Gronk healthy and sidelined till Winter.

    If the new guys are absolute trash, maybe he comes back sooner rather than later lol

  45. gotbbucs Says:

    College TE’s are hard to evaluate.

    Mark Andrews was a 3rd round pick, Travis Kelce was a 3rd round pick, George Kittle was a 5th round pick. Gronk was a 2nd round pick. The only sure thing about drafting TE’s is you don’t use a 1st round pick on one.

    Almost all of the best tight ends in the NFL in recent history were mid round picks. That’s not to say that Otten is the next one, but there’s no reason to believe that he can’t be good.

  46. HC Grover Says:

    He’s gone Joe.

  47. SOEbuc Says:

    Is he the only agent other than Suh? I want to live where that guy lives.

  48. HC Grover Says:

    He’s gone Joe. Also 20 million dollar mistake on Godwin who will not even play. Brady Bat signal up!

  49. Allbuccedup Says:

    Brate is a #2 tight end at best a trade I would not rule out.

  50. SOEbuc Says:

    No AB no Gronk I’m thinking it’s gonna be more run, screen, PA heavy than Brady getting 5,200 yards and 42 TD, but bless his little heart if he can.

  51. Allbuccedup Says:

    Seattle has 3 or 4 TEs possible trade.

  52. Delusional Intelligence Says:

    Too much stock is put into where someone is/was drafted. As the Joes have stated. Lotto is a crap shoot. For example….

    George Kittle – Round 5
    Travis Kelce – Round 3
    Austin Hooper – Round 3
    Jimmy Graham – Round 3
    Jared Cook – Round 3

    Simple fact of the matter is you can not replace a Gronk. Just have to adapt & overcome.

  53. GOB Says:

    SOE, I tend to agree. They simply don’t have the horses to throw 700 times. Rely on the run a little more, and horizontal passing. Brady is a deadly play action passer.

  54. Bonim Says:

    Gronk will get here. He just doesn’t want to go through camp. I’m cool with that.

  55. PassingThru Says:

    @Delusional Intelligence

    To be fair, the older TEs listed are not good comparisons as TEs back in the day were only rarely drafted in the first round or two. That has changed, the position is more in demand in the past few years. The pairing of Gronk with Aaron Hernandez had a lot to do with it.

    Second, just about every TE (and I think all of the ones you listed except Kittle) had fairly low to non-productive first seasons. That’s normal for rookie TEs, which is why folks shouldn’t expect much of anything from Otton, let alone Kieft.

  56. Joe Says:

    QJoe says 3+2 does not equal 4.
    I say have you seen these crazy things they teach the kids in today’s math classes???
    Equity math


  57. shaduckdow Says:

    Invite Gronk to be a paid training camp coach, ask him for help in training the rookie tight ends, getting them prepared for Brady expectations and acclimating their mindsets to NFL play; possibly molding them into baby Gronks. The ulterior motive would be to get Gronk around his teammates and hope he get the bug to unretire (again) and play.

  58. Listnfrmafar Says:

    gotbBucssay@ Pitt went 1st round, how’s he working out. I sure would take him in a heart beat right now.

  59. Longtime Brady Fan Says:

    Sometimes copying what worked before is a Plan B. Tough as nails James Develin Height: 6′ 3″ 251 lbs, 40 yard dash time: 5.02 seconds. Blocking and catching moves the chains. It wouldn’t surprise me if Cade is utilized as an H back.

  60. Allbuccedup Says:

    Shaduckdow I don’t know if thats a good idea Gronk might be teaching them WWE wrestling or how to do commercials.

  61. DoooshLaRue Says:

    Brady and Gronk cannot be replicated,
    BUT, I like where we’re at.
    With our latest draft I think we can build something just as good if not better, and more diverse/dynamic.
    Youth and mentorship are a great combination.
    I trust Licht and his vision.

    Go Bucs!

  62. Bucschamp Says:

    Doesn’t really makes sense why Gronk retired this late unless he’s injured. He was even working out with other players this offseason. Brady now lost one of his trusted guys. This is going to be tough

  63. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Put me on record as saying Gronk will be back on the Bucs sometime this year.

  64. Marques Says:

    Now go sign Robert Quinn with extra cash on hand

  65. Eddie Marz Says:

    Gronk is gone. Loved him but can’t count on him anymore. Better that we know now, to get ready for the upcoming season. GOBUCS!

  66. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    We should know if Licht is planning on a Gronk return by his actions on TE between now & TC…..if Licht acquires a top-tier TE in FA or via trade….then no.

    I suspect that Licht will go with what we have or perhaps pick up a 2nd tier TE in hopes of a Gronk return.

    Our money opens us up to an addition or two at the following positions (not in priority order)…..TE, WR, OLB, DT, ILB….

    We have not replaced players like Minter…….with LVD’s injury & age…we need more depth there.

    We could always use a player like Amendola……

  67. Dewey Selmon Says:

    What happens if Brate, COtten, and lil Ko Keif are leading the league in TE production and Gronk wants to come back?

  68. Stanglassman Says:

    I do expect a veteran TE to be signed. With a trade with a team like the Cardinals or Ravens or a FA. Preferably one that can catch and block. Not Tanner Hudson.

  69. adam from ny Says:

    not sure this kid can grow hair on his chest yet…


  70. adam from ny Says:

    don’t sleep on cam having a revival…

    can cam catch 64 balls for 750 yards and 8 scores…

    it really is possible…maybe…

    cam might bust his azz this year, knowing it’s with brady and one for the ages…

    a savvy vet sometimes can squeak out one more productive season before the big collapse…check player histories – it happens – sometimes

  71. adam from ny Says:

    we gotta sign another cold weather veteran tight end…like a vance mcdonald or someone like that

  72. Crack3rK Says:

    I hear OJ Howard may be available after final cuts… 🙂