Many folks are praying for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to sign a veteran tight end. If the Buccaneers answer these prayers, then that tight end must fill this specific role.
Ever since Rob Gronkowski (finally) made it official and announced his retirement from professional football, coupled with the departure of O.J. Howard via free agency, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers suddenly found themselves at a crossroads when it comes to the tight end position.
A large majority of Bucs fans desperately want their team to sign or acquire in any way a veteran tight end. Any veteran tight end. An apparent minority of Buccaneers fans are perfectly content with Cameron Brate leading the way with the two rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft behind him on the depth chart, even if ends up being more of a “tight end by committee” approach. Consider this writer a driver on the road less traveled on this issue for whatever that’s worth.
The Buccaneers, however, the ones making this decision, appear to be weighing all options. They have been linked to guys like Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Graham, and Jared Cook while others of this ilk are still out there to be had. Whether or not these options are objectively better than what the Bucs already have at this point in their careers is up for interpretation, but that’s not the main point here.
If the Buccaneers sign a veteran tight end, they need to fill a specific role.
Regardless of who they bring in unless they are somehow able to pull a rabbit out of the hat and trade the Dallas Cowboys for Dalton Schultz, the Buccaneers should not ask any of the available tight ends, who are more over the hill than walking up it, to do as much as they would the other tight ends already on the roster. A veteran tight end brought in should serve as a lack of a better word “adult” 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. They would be there for support thanks to their experience and past success and to make a play here and there when needed.
While fans may scream at the top of their lungs for the Bucs 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. Expecting one of these available veterans to try and produce what Gronk did is crazy town, but they can try to build and mold what they already have by bringing a leader who’s been there, done that, smelt it, and dealt it.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may stay put at tight end. They also may not. Should they bring in a veteran, they should not expect him to be the undisputed starter and light the world on fire at this point in their career. There are reasons why the same guys have been floating out there for a while now. However, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have a role with the franchise, and that role would be helping mentor and polish what they already have, to maximize success in the present, and in the future.