Rob Gronkowski exhorted Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie tight end Cade Otton to help fill some big cleats this fall.
Otton congratulated Gronkowski, who retired on Tuesday, June 21; for a great career via Twitter. Otton tweeted, “the best to ever do it” and “thanks for making it cool to be a tight end” in his message to Gronkowski.
“Make those Bucs proud this year, young tight end,” Gronkowski responded.
The Bucs took Otton in the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft out of Washington. Otton caught 91 passes for 1,026 yards and nine touchdowns in 31 career games with the Huskies. He has been dealing with an ankle injury this offseason, but he could see the field behind Bucs veteran tight end Cameron Brate.
Tampa Bay has youth and inexperience at tight end overall with Codey McElroy and rookies Otton, Ko Kieft, J.J. Howland, and Ben Beise. The Bucs also have sufficient funds to sign a quality veteran tight end before training camp. Tampa Bay has $10.5 million in salary cap space per Spotrac, and Gronkowski’s retirement doesn’t affect the salary cap since he was an unrestricted free agent, Greg Auman of The Athletic writes.
Mike Evans on Gronk: ‘Best Tight End Ever’
Bucs star wide receiver Mike Evans called Gronkowski the “best tight end ever” in his Instagram story.
“[I’m] honored to have had the opportunity to play alongside you and win a [champion] chip,” Evans added. “Thanks for everything! Enjoy retirement big bro.”
Bucs safety Logan Ryan, who played with Gronkowski in New England, wrote, “I’ll be telling the grand kids stories about the Gronk one day, lol, a legend” in his post.
Another former Patriots teammate, Julian Edelman gave Gronkowski a unique send-off on social media. Edelman notably toyed with coming out of retirement himself and joining the Bucs.
“There will only ever be one Gronk. Love you bro,” Edelman wrote.
Bucs GM Jason Licht: Gronkowski ‘Left it All on the Field’
Bucs general manager Jason Licht witnessed both the beginning of Gronkowski’s career.
Licht served as the New England Patriots director of player personnel when the team drafted Gronkowski in 2010. Their paths crossed again in Tampa Bay when Gronkowski came out of retirement in 2020.
“Rob is a true professional who left it all on the field for us the past two seasons and helped establish a championship culture in our building,” Licht said in a statement from the Bucs. “He played a crucial part in our Super Bowl LV championship season in 2020 and battled through a number of injuries last year while on the way to one of the most productive receiving yardage seasons in his 11-year career.”
“It is always difficult to see a great player walk away from the game when he is still enjoying that kind of success, but the overwhelming emotions I feel today are gratitude and respect for one of the greatest tight ends who ever played the game,” Licht added. “While his on-field accomplishments will surely earn him a gold jacket and a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it is his humble attitude and team-first approach to the game that truly defined his career.”