TAMPA — He’s a monster. That’s what you hear from the Bucs. Or a mahnstah, as they say in New England.
That’s why they wanted tight end Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement and play in Tompa Bay as much as Gronk wanted to play football again with Tom Brady.
Sure, he hasn’t worn a helmet and shoulder pads in a year and he seemed to have become worn down during his NFL career by a list of injuries we can list later.
He missed 13 games in his final three seasons in New England. But he’s only 30, apparently in excellent shape and now the best tight end on the Bucs roster, on or off the wrestling mat.
Almost as soon as Brady signed a two-year, $50 million contract with the Bucs last month, Gronkowski made his representatives aware he was ready to join up with Brady in Tampa.
On Tuesday, the Bucs acquired Gronkowski’s rights, his $10 million contract for 2020 and a seventh-round pick from the Patriots in exchange for one of their two fourth-round selections in Thursday’s NFL draft. The deal is pending the outcome of a physical that Gronkowski took with an independent physician in Boston and likely passed with flying colors.
It figures, right? Gronk has always wanted to keep the party going.
He tried the WWE and was the 24/7 champion of WrestleMania 36 on April 5. But the chance to play with Brady? Without Bill Belichick in his earhole?
You can see Gronkowski wanting to spike his career the way he caroms the football to the rafters in the end zone after scoring a touchdown.
Entering Thursday’s NFL draft, the Bucs’ tight end position lines up like this: Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Antony Auclair. We’ll get into whether one of those will be leaving town in a second, but just consider those targets to go with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Here’s the thing with Gronk. You’re not just getting a great football player. You’re getting a beer chuggin', knuckle-headed bundle of energy injected into the Bucs’ locker room. Oh, and he’s a future Hall of Fame tight end with three Super Bowl rings.
Gronkowski had some ties to Tampa Bay before Brady and Gisele moved into Derek Jeter’s Davis Islands mansion.
He owned a 4,700-square foot home in South Tampa, Chez Gronk, that he sold for $2 million in 2013. He also is currently an investor in Rocca, an Italian restaurant near Armature Works in Tampa, which earned the first 10 from the Tampa Bay Times food critic.
This made too much sense to not happen.
Brady is taking a pretty big leap of faith that after 20 seasons with the Patriots, he can change zip codes, teams and head coaches and win another Super Bowl with a franchise that hasn’t reached the playoffs in a dozen years.
To do it without a single player he has met before may have been asking a little much.
Brady will know where Gronk is on and off the field. Put on any video of the Patriots in the past four seasons and you will see him making plays — spectacular catches in traffic, bulldozing over tacklers, running away from linebackers and safeties and getting the celebration going in the end zone.
Of course, you’re not just adding Gronk. You’re adding Gronk’s athletic family: father Gordon and brothers Gordie Jr., 37, a former first baseman for the Angels’ farm system; Dan, 35, a former Maryland football player who was drafted in the seventh round by the Lions and played for the Patriots, Broncos and Browns; Chris, 33, a former Arizona fullback who played for the Chargers, Cowboys, Colts and Broncos; and Glenn, 27, a former fullback at Kansas State who played for the Bills and Patriots.
Mental note: Find the Gronkowski tailgate and call Uber.
There are some potential pitfalls to signing Gronk. His body is a medical journal. Since joining the Patriots, he’s had a forearm fracture, a back fracture, torn ACL, torn MCL (both knee injuries on the same play), a hamstring pull, a chest lung bruise, a herniated disc and multiple concussions.
And that’s just on the field.
Also, what happens to a player like Howard? It’s no secret the Bucs aren’t going to pick up his fifth-year option. They tried to trade Howard last October and are shopping him before the draft. He’s a great character guy, a freakish athlete at 6 feet 6, 242 pounds who can run a 4.52 40-yard dash. But he has suspect hands and lacks natural instincts for the game.
A year with Brady may help him, but the only use Gronk ever had for O.J. is with vodka. But one of the best years Brady ever had was with Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez lining up in the same formation.
The Bucs are in win-now-at-all-costs mode. They’ve got Brady. Gronk. You have to wonder how long before Julian Edelman reunites the three amigos?
This is crazy, insane and a heck of a lot of fun. Everything Gronk will be for the Bucs.