The news of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement has fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a bit of a tizzy. That’s primarily because the Buccaneers’ other tight end, and new de-facto starter (as of now) is always being slept on, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
In case you haven’t heard, Rob Gronkowski has decided to retire from football, again. That means that two of the Bucs tight ends from the last couple of years, Gronk and O.J. Howard, are gone. Of course, there is still another tight end familiar with the franchise and Tom Brady still on the roster, and he’s one that is always being slept on by some Buccaneers fans and NFL fans alike. Real ones know though.
Since joining the Buccaneers in 2014 as an undrafted free agent, out of Harvard of all places, Cameron Brate has been a fighter. He fought for a roster spot for about two years, and since joining the team full time, hasn’t missed a game since 2016, when he missed one. For reference the season before in 2015 he missed two. Simply put, Brate has been ol’ reliable, despite having the chip on his shoulder of being criminally slept on from jump street. You compare that to the injury histories of Gronkowski and Howard, and it’s one less thing to worry about.
Brate’s stats were never going to jump off of the page, his best season coming in 2016 when he caught 57 balls for 660 yards and eight touchdowns. Then there are the playoffs.
In the Buccaneers’ 2020 Super Bowl run, Brate was fantastic as a second tight end. Rob Gronkowski got a lot of praise for his playoff performance of eight catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in Super Bowl LV. As for Brate? His playoff numbers were 14 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown, which came in the third quarter of the NFC Championship Game, the last touchdown they’d score in the game. Granted, Brate’s numbers during last season’s playoff run aren’t as high, but there were also more mouths to feed at the position.
The thing with Brate is, that his impact goes beyond the numbers. Brate’s impact comes from his reliability and dependability. Now, he has a chance to excel at both as he’s currently penciled in as the new starting tight end ahead of rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft.
Perhaps some convincing is still needed since the wound of Gronk’s retirement is still fresh. In today’s fantasy football and the analytical-obsessed world we find ourselves in, numbers have never been held on a higher pedestal. So in that spirit, try this one on for size:
Sometimes there’s a reason players stick around for a while. The team like’s them, and the player likes what the tenure does to his numbers.
Look it’s entirely possible that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers bring in another veteran tight end for some insurance. However, the concept of having a veteran tight end mentor two rookies isn’t foreign to Brady. In 2010 his three tight ends were veteran Alge Crumpler in the Brate role and rookies Gronk and Aaron Hernandez. So there’s that. We don’t know what will become of these three in their new roles, but with Brady slinging the rock, anything is possible.
The point is, while a lot can happen from now and training camp, especially with the tight ends, Brate is not one to be slept on. Those paying attention know that the guy can play, and the precious numbers back that up if you’re still a stickler. If you are set in your ways though, keep sleeping on him. It’s what Cameron Brate was born in, and has been molded by it. He thrives on it and will continue to do so.