Tampa Bay saves more than $6 million in salary cap space with the Mason contract restructure according to a source via ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday, September 6. Speculation soon surfaced about retired tight end Rob Gronkowski returning. Gronkowski retired on June 21 after an 11-year career, but rumors of a return simmered since.
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles didn’t confirm any rumor during a press conference Wednesday, September 7. However, Bowles hinted about the Bucs possibly using the extra money at some point after the Week 1 game against the Dallas Cowboys on September 11.
“It’s just to have money right now, but things open up and things happen after the first week, so it’s better safe than sorry,” Bowles told reporters.
That didn’t necessarily imply Gronkowski as the Bucs have multiple needs on other fronts. The offensive line went through loads of transition in the offseason with departures, injuries, and inexperienced players stepping into starting roles. Making a move to bolster the Bucs’ front seven on defense isn’t out of the question either.
Filling Gronkowski’s Shoes
Bowles says that he sees other offensive players filling in for Gronkowski with the passing game this season.
“It doesn’t just have to come from that [tight end] group, it can come from the wide receivers and the running backs,” Bowles said. “As a group, between all of them, we’ll try to make up somehow for him. Nobody’s going to look like ‘Gronk,’ or even catch like ‘Gronk,’ and rumble down the field and run over people, but we have different skill sets that we can make up the catches for and I feel confident in that.”
Bowles previously mentioned new wide receiver Julio Jones as a playmaking source in lieu of Gronkowski. The Bucs also added wide receiver Russell Gage and tight end Kyle Rudolph to give quarterback Tom Brady more veteran targets.
Bucs Looking for More Talent?
Bowles expressing confidence in the offensive line during an August 22 press conference doesn’t leave the door closed on the Bucs making a move. He said they’re going with their “in-house” options, but he tweaked those thoughts after two offensive line injuries occurred in the final preseason game.
“There is not a sense of urgency unless we lose the two that went down,” Bowles told reporters on August 28. “You have to have someone willing to give you a good football player [in a trade]. Nobody is going to give you a good football player. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you.”
Bowles then added, “we are going to look at certain trades to see if we can find some things out there” but noted they wouldn’t force it. The Bucs notably also didn’t rush in July to find an outside replacement for injured Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, now on injured reserve.
A few experience concerns also loom on defense with two longtime veterans gone — defensive end Ndamukong Suh and linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul. While Bucs defensive end William Gholston has plenty of experience, second-year linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoynika doesn’t have as much. Both are tasked with filling big shoes this season.
Bowles and company will have a better idea if any other shoes need to be filled after Week 1.