Finally a bit of breaking news that we can all smile about, or at least everyone but Patriots fans!
On Tuesday night the news broke that Rob Gronkowski was coming out of retirement and that his rights were being traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a fourth round draft pick. The three time Superbowl champion, who didn’t play in the 2019 season, last saw the field of play in Superbowl 53 when the Patriots beat the Rams.
Gronkowski had previously been on the trade block in the run up to the 2018 draft when he was set to be traded to the Detroit Lions but told New England he would opt for retirement instead of playing for a quarterback other than Tom Brady. Re-joining with Brady, Gronkowski seems all in on the idea of bringing a Championship to the Tampa Bay area. At 30 years of age many people will ask the question, how much does he have left in the tank? And, is his head still in the game?
Looking at the pieces of the Buccaneers offence before this trade, the biggest obvious upgrade was needed at the offensive line and running back positions. The tight end room already featured seasoned pros in Cameron Brate and OJ Howard, the latter of which has struggled to live up to his potential in recent years. So the question remains, how much does the addition of Gronkowski improve the Bucs?
The Passing Game
With arguably one of the best receiving corps in the league, it’s hard to imagine that Gronk will have a significant role in Bruce Arians’ passing offence.
Mike Evans and Chris Godwin had a breakout year as a duo under Jameis Winston and now they have one of the greatest of all time throwing it to them, they are definitely going to command the same level of attention this season too.
That puts Gronk to at least third on the list in terms of targets, when previously he would have been Brady’s go to guy alongside Julian Edelman. I can imagine a scenario where Gronk becomes Brady’s bail out option on third down plays where chemistry plays a huge factor. However, in the long run, if he wants to be successful as a Buc, Gronk is going to have to accept a lesser role on the field.
The Locker Room
Undoubtedly, Gronk will bring with him a wealth of experience. His expertise and knowledge will go a long way in helping Brate and Howard in the film room and will elevate their game to the next level in the long term.
It’s likely that the Brady-Gronk-Arians Buccaneers only last two seasons and the aftermath of what they achieve will be felt in Tampa Bay for a long time after they are gone. What the players around Gronk can learn will help them in their careers and elevate them to the next level – perhaps something Arians had in mind as someone who is keen on player development.
The O-Line & Run Game
The Bucs need upgrades on the offensive line. Granted, Gronk isn’t any help in that area, but he is a help in the run game. Suring up one side of the line and running behind Gronkowski will take some of the pressure of Brady not having to throw the ball 30 times a game. This will also coincide with the play-action passing game where both Gronk and the Bucs will definitely benefit in this regard.
Teams will have to guard against the run whilst also being cautious of the aerial threat that Gronkowski presents. Despite it not being a full overhaul for the line, the addition of Gronkowski will go a long way in helping to keep Brady upright and allowing him to get the ball out quicker.
Tom Brady will benefit from this more so than anybody. Moving into a new system and scheme will mean new languages, new signs and a new way of operating an offence. To have the familiarity of an ex-teammate and number one target joining him will allow him to personalise plays in ways he sees fit. Trying to get all players on the same page in a new system can take some time, but for Brady to know he has a constant escape route in Gronkowski, who knows his tendencies and audibles will pay huge dividends this season.
The NFC South has moved itself into one of the more premier divisions in football and with the Buccaneers offence going from good, to seemingly great on paper, we are in for a lot of fun match ups this year. Brady is trying to make a statement on his legacy and ability to win championships and it seems like the pieces are falling into place to help him do that.