Bills Could Lose Top Free-Agent Target Thanks to Tom Brady’s Comeback

Rob Gronkowski

Getty Rob Gronkowski runs after making a catch against the Buffalo Bills.

Tom Brady keeps finding ways to hurt the Buffalo Bills, this time potentially spoiling their free-agency plans with an abrupt change of plans regarding his future.

Brady announced on Sunday that he was ending his short-lived retirement and returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the upcoming season. While the Bills would not have to cross paths with Brady unless the teams were to meet in the Super Bowl, his return could have more wide-ranging effect on Buffalo’s plans for next season.

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Brady Could Smash Free-Agency Hopes

Bills general manager Brandon Beane made it clear that the team would not be making any expensive or splashy moves in free agency, largely due to the team’s tight salary cap with Josh Allen’s contract extension kicking in. But many expected that the Bills could be in the running for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was headed to free agency and no longer tied to the Buccaneers after friend and lifelong teammate Brady had retired.

Brady’s decision to return for another season may have changed that. As WKBW’s Matt Bove note shortly after Brady announced his return, the Bills appear to be out of the running for Gronkowski.

The Athletic’s Jeff Howe reported that bringing Gronkowski back is now a priority for Tampa with Brady back in the fold. And Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News speculated that Brady’s return could turn the tide of free agency beyond Gronkowski, leading other targets who could have otherwise left to instead return to Tampa.

“Gronkowski has had early eyes on the Bills and Bengals to keep playing in search of another ring. Now he’s likely back in the fold to play with his buddy Brady on the Buccaneers, should he not retire,” Iyer reported. “Franchise-tagged wideout Chris Godwin and free-agent running back Leonard Fournette, a key outlet receiver last season, should also want to sign right back up to stay with the GOAT. Mike Evans can also continue to put up monster stats. Brady’s return also might make center Ryan Jensen think about returning on a team-friendlier deal — important with guard Ali Marpet retiring.”

Bills Address Other Priorities

As Gronkowski’s future remained in the balance, the Bills went to work addressing other needs. Like the previous offseason, Beane put a priority on keeping some of the team’s key players before heading to free agency. The team announced on Sunday that versatile wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie was returning to the team on a two-year contract.

The team also announced on Monday that center Mitch Morse had re-signed on a two-year deal that also lowered his cap hit. The Bills also released offensive lineman Daryl Williams, a move that WIVB reported will create more than $6 million in cap space. The Bills had already released lineman Jon Feliciano earlier in the month, giving some further breathing room to make moves in free agency.

The Bills are still seen as a contender to land Gronkowski, though the 32-year-old could also choose to return to retirement, as he had done following the 2018 season before coming back to rejoin Brady on the Buccaneers.

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