The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without Rob Gronkowski, but that doesn’t mean the Buccaneers need to be hasty and rush to try and replace him in a panic.
In the NFL-crazed world we find ourselves #thriving in, we have an insatiable thirst for anything football during the offseason. That’s especially true during the dog days of summer. When Rob Gronkowski decided he was hanging up the cleats for good this time (we think), it naturally sent the NFL, but more specifically the Tampa Bay Buccaneers community into a frenzy. All of that pent-up excitement and emotion that was to be saved for the regular season was let loose.
Buccaneers fans immediately started looking at who might be available to acquire via trade or free agency, as Gronk’s retirement coupled with the departure of O.J. Howard via free agency left the Bucs’ tight end cupboard bare, in the clouded eyes of select fans of course.
You see, the cupboard isn’t bare, far from it in fact. The Buccaneers do not need to be too hasty in bringing in what the public would deem as a “worthy” replacement like Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, or Jared Cook because they have recognizable names despite being over the hill.
While Gronk was taking his sweet old time deciding on his NFL future, Jason Licht, Bruce Arians, Todd Bowles, and company prepared for a future that could either include or not include Gronk simultaneously. Their approach would have worked regardless of what the future Hall of Fame tight end decided.
The Bucs drafted two tight ends, and both compliment each other splendidly. Fourth-round pick Cade Otton is the more natural receiver, with great run-after-the-catch skills. He’s also a very solid blocker. Ko Kieft meanwhile, the tight end they drafted in the sixth round, is an absolute bowling ball of a tight end, whose biggest strength is his blocking, to the point where he’s more of a blocking specialist. Both tight ends put together essentially equal one Gronk as far as their best skill sets are concerned, with Otton being a younger version, health concerns and all. Obviously, this isn’t saying Otton is Gronk, as we’ll have to wait and see what the production produces from the two rookies.
As for the veteran leading the charge, the Bucs still have Ol’Reliable Cameron Brate. Unlike the newly departed tight ends Gronk and Howard, Brate never misses time, and if the best ability truly is availability, then the Buccaneers are in fine shape at tight end. Now the de facto starter, Brate is also now in the driver’s seat to pass Jimmie Giles for the second-most touchdown receptions EVER by a Buccaneers player. You read that right. Giles caught 34 and Brate currently sits at 33. Look it up if you’re skeptical we’ll wait.
Welcome back. Now look, this isn’t saying that the Buccaneers shouldn’t bring in another veteran tight end AT ALL. It’s simply saying there are zero reasons to rush. If they want to bring one in during camp/preseason when cuts are made and there’s more to choose from then that’s perfectly ok. However, being too hasty and rushing to bring in someone like the aging veterans mentioned earlier just means the Bucs would be settling. There’s also this to consider:
Much like the 2010 New England Patriots, Tom Brady now has a veteran tight end and two rookies. This isn’t saying the situations are identical, Brate is better than Crumpler was, and we don’t know what will become of Otton and Kieft yet. All this is saying is that when Brady is your quarterback, all bets are off and anything is possible.
So yes, while Tom Brady’s numbers historically have been down without Gronk, his wins never have been, and his tight ends still produce. Nobody is Rob Gronkowski, so there’s no reason to rush and settle on someone because they have a recognizable name.
If the Buccaneers want to explore the tight end market down the road then fine, they just don’t have to hit the panic button and throw money willy-nilly. Besides, Gronk has kept the door open to potentially return during the season. Like Brady, he’s come out of retirement once, and it’d be a shame if they couldn’t pay him because they already signed another veteran tight end in a panic. Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be just fine with their tight ends for now. It’s all good in the neighborhood.