Bucs GM Addresses Rob Gronkowski’s Status Amid 2 TE Draft Picks

Rob Gronkowski

Getty The Buccaneers drafted two possible replacements for Rob Gronkowski.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected two tight ends on the final day of the 2022 NFL draft.

Amid uncertainty surrounding Rob Gronkowski’s return to Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers selected Cade Otton out of the University of Washington in the fourth round and Ko Kieft from the University of Minnesota in the sixth round.

The two tight end selections — which gives the Buccaneers four players at the position with Cameron Brate and Codey McElroy — give increased speculation that Gronkowski may not be a lock to return after all.

However, general manager Jason Licht quickly disputed that notion following the selection of Otton in the fourth round.

Via Jenna Laine of ESPN:

“Bucs select tight end Cade Otton with the 106th pick. GM Jason Licht said that drafting a tight end doesn’t impact the status of Rob Gronkowski, who remains unsigned. ‘I’m still giving him that time. We still talk. I think it didn’t matter if we drafted two tight ends,'” reports Laine.

Buccaneers’ Tight End Selections Are Insurance

Otton can be seen as an insurance policy for Gronkowski. The 23-year-old caught 91 passes for 1,026 yards and nine touchdowns during his Huskies career. He underwent ankle surgery after missing two games due to the injury in 2021.

Tampa Bay’s later draft pick, Kieft, is more of a blocker than a pass-catcher. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Kieft even spoke of his special trait following the Buccaneers’ decision to draft him, via Jenna Laine of ESPN.

“Any kind of run blocking, pass pro — I’m your man,” said Kieft. “I’ll get down and dirty with the worst of ‘em. So that’s my role. That’s what I love to do. But when I am given the opportunity to run routes, catch the football, I’m proficient and can help the team in that way.”

Considering Kieft is a sixth-round selection and his asset lies in the blocking game, his selection should have little bearing on Gronkowski’s impending return.

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Gronkowski Not Committed to a Return

The 32-year-old Gronkowski has yet to commit to a return with the Buccaneers.

“Yes, not the case right now,” Gronkowski told TMZ Sports on Thursday, April 28, just before the draft. “Just relaxing, enjoying my time. We’ll see.”

Gronkowski actually then made a bit of an eyebrow-raising comment shortly after.

“We’re actually way farther away from the commitment than I was before to going back to football,” Gronkowski said.

The veteran tight end had his best season in years despite being limited due to rib injuries. The 11-year tight end caught 55 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns in just 12 games last season. His reception and receiving yard totals represented his best marks since the 2017 season with the New England Patriots.

Despite Gronkowski’s uncertainty regarding a return, Bucs general manager Licht stated back in March that the veteran tight end has a spot with Tampa Bay if he wants to come back.

“He knows he’s got a spot here,” Licht said about Gronkowski in an interview with Mad Dog Sports Radio via JoeBucsFan.com in March.

Just prior to the draft, new Bucs head coach Todd Bowles addressed the potential returns of Gronkowski and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

“There are still things to work out, and we’ll see what the draft brings, and we’ll keep working with those guys as well,” Bowles added.

Whatever Gronkowski’s decision may end up being, the Buccaneers are prepared for either scenario.

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