Many want the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to sign a tight end. However, the one that makes the most sense and is the most realistic is the one that’s the least talked about for the Buccaneers.
A lot of Bucs fans have been crying from the mountain tops for their team to sign a veteran tight end in the wake of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. The team clearly hasn’t heard those cries, because even though they are sitting on about $12 million in space, they have appeared to be in no rush to make a move.
Why is that? Are they still banking on Gronk to come out of retirement? Another explanation could be that they are simply happy with Cameron Brate and the two rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft. It makes sense considering the veteran tight ends available in free agency consist of the Kyle Rudolphs, and Jared Cooks of the world. Sure, it may move the depth chart on paper, but asking those over the hill tight ends to try and replicate what Gronk provided the Buccaneers would not end well.
There is a veteran free agent tight end that’s available that would make perfect sense though for the Buccaneers, and is also the most realistic.
For about a four year period, Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham looked like Dan Fouts and Kellen Winslow. Of course, this was right as Tom Brady and Gronk were just getting into their groove, so this comparison makes more sense. Brees and Graham tortured the entire NFL, and the Buccaneers specifically, year after year. Graham also found some continued success with Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. Now, the Bucs have a chance to make Graham their own, and they are reportedly interested in doing so.
Yes, Graham is also over the hill like the other tight ends available, if not more so. The difference is, the Buccaneers would not ask Graham to do as much as they would the other tight ends, and would serve as the veteran presence in the room to support Brate and mentor the rookies. His impact would come more off-the-field than on it, in a way similar to the veteran running backs the Buccaneers have brought in in recent years like Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy. You can even lump Giovanni Bernard in that category as well at this point.
The main point here is, while fans may scream at the top of their lungs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to sign a veteran tight end because they’re used to having a lot of name-brand guys to fulfill their roster resembling the 2014 All-Pro team, that doesn’t mean they half to overpay to try and replicate success at the expense of their growing young core. Jimmy Graham coming to Tampa Bay (for cheap) would check that “name-brand” box but would not stunt any player maturation. This is a rare case of fans being able to have their cake and eat it too, and it’s time that expectations are tempered.