Buccaneers.com’s senior writer/editor Scott Smith said Gronkowski is “most likely” to return among those three. The other two Bucs stars remaining unsigned include Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh.
“I would think the most likely returning is Gronk,” Smith said on the “Locked on Bucs” podcast. “I think that’s all just based on waiting for him to decide. If Gronkowski wants to come back, I would have a hard time believing that we would not find a way to make that happen.”
The Bucs tight end remained noncommittal to playing in 2022 since the season ended on January 23. Gronkowski also said he wants to focus on his off-field ventures, which he told SB Nation’s Debbie Emery.
“If Tom Brady had left, I would just expect Rob Gronkowski to slide back into his very fun retirement phase,” Smith added.
When it comes to Brady’s requests to play, Smith said “I feel like Rob would have a hard time” saying no. Brady originally lured Gronkowski out of retirement in 2020 to join the Bucs.
“But I just am of the opinion that he probably has things he would like to do this offseason. There’s no hurry for him to make his decision. Maybe he doesn’t want to go to mandatory minicamp. I’m just making [that part] up, but it wouldn’t shock you,” Smith continued.
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Money Factor for Suh
Suh has played on one-year contracts for the past four seasons according to Spot Trac. At 35 years old, Suh might be thinking about retirement.
Smith told “Locked on Bucs” that streak of one-year deals “certainly gives you the idea he is deciding each offseason if he wants to continue, and he’s another guy with lots of off-the-field interest and things that he’s into. I don’t think he’d have any problem whatsoever walking away from the game.”
“I think you’re waiting to see, does he want to play another season for the amount of money the Buccaneers probably would have available,” Smith said.
Injuries Catching Up With J.P.P.
Jason Pierre-Paul, 33, may have played his last snap in a Bucs uniform after an injury-riddled 2021 season.
The veteran linebacker tallied 33 sacks, eight forced fumbles, 171 tackles, and two interceptions in four seasons with the team. He joined the Bucs via a trade with the New York Giants in 2018. Smith told “Locked on Bucs” that the “trade worked out so well, and he’s had a great impact” but the injuries may have caught up with him.
“Last year, the shoulder thing was so bad, and the hand thing for a good portion of the year as well,” Smith added. “And he still went out there and tried to play as much as he could, and they shut him down a little bit there at the end of the season, hoping to get some J.P.P. impact in the playoffs.”
“I just wonder with all the injuries, is there some point where you’re [just] grateful for the years you’ve gotten out of him,” Smith concluded.