Doubts of the Bucs star tight end’s return persisted once the 2021 season ended and longtime teammate, quarterback Tom Brady, retired. Gronkowski, 32, could retire a second time or leave in free agency.
“He’s been working out at the facility twice a week, so we’ll see,” Arians said regarding Gronkowski via Pewter Report’s Matt Matera.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht told the media at the NFL Combine on Tuesday that Gronkowski is on the radar for re-signing.
“We’ll be talking to Rob’s agent here. Rob just wanted a little time to think about his future. But, once again, he’s another great player at his position. So, I’d be excited if he wanted to come back,” Licht said.
Gronkowski caught 55 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns in 2021, but he also endured injuries that caused him to miss five games. He told the media on Jan. 24 that he would take time to make a decision and that it wouldn’t hinge on Brady’s plans. Later, Gronkowski told TMZ Sports on Jan. 26 that he wouldn’t play in 2022 as a gut reaction — albeit humorously.
“You’ve got to give it some time, you’ve got to rest to see how everything goes, to see how everything plays out, how I feel,” Gronkowski told TMZ Sports “I just want to heal completely, see where my thoughts are from there then.”
Gronkowski has an extensive history of injuries, which led to his 2019 retirement before returning to join the Bucs in 2020. He made $8 million last season with the Bucs, and Spot Trac lists his market value as a free agent at $8.3 million, which puts him in the top 10 of all tight ends.
The latest Bucs news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Bucs newsletter here!
Tough Price Tag for Bucs
Tampa Bay will have a challenge re-signing Gronkowski for that amount with a projected $6.78 million in salary cap space per Spot Trac. The Bucs also have more than 20 other free agents to consider re-signing.
If Gronkowski keeps playing and doesn’t stay with the Bucs, he could go a variety of places. NFL.com’s Adam Rank suggested that Gronkowski should consider Cincinnati, the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills, and San Francisco 49ers. Pro Football Network’s Adam Beasley floated the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans as possibilities, too.
Gronkowski notably talked up Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow before Super Bowl LVI.
“I kinda like this young buck quarterback. He’s in the Super Bowl now: It’s Joe Burrow, man,” Gronkowski said according to MassLive’s Chris Mason. “I watched him in college. I just love the way he presents himself out on the football field. In the pocket he’s just so calm and he just slings it out on the field.”
Gronkowski: ‘He’s Going to Come Back’
Brady’s status for 2022 may not determine what Gronkowski plans, but it could impact future seasons in 2023 or beyond for the star tight end. Gronkowski believes Brady could come back — eventually.
“The guy can play at any age,” Gronkowski said on Feb. 11 according to USA Today’s Josh Peter. “If he’s 50 years old, he can still come back. I think he’s going to come back but in a couple of years. The guy’s a beast. He can play anytime.”