TAMPA — Tom Brady may have asked for more than just some phone numbers of his new teammates. He wanted the Bucs to acquire one of his old teammates: tight end Rob Gronkowski.
While it wasn’t described by the Bucs as a demand, trading for Gronkowski was Brady’s idea. And he kept pushing until general manager Jason Licht agreed to investigate whether he could swing a deal with the Patriots to bring Gronk to the Bucs.
On Tuesday, Brady got his wish when the Bucs sent a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft to the Patriots for the rights to Gronkowski and his one-year, $10-million contract, along with a seventh-round choice from New England.
Time will tell who made out in this deal. The Bucs get a soon-to-be 31-year-old future Hall-of-Fame player who has been dominant when healthy and give up the extra compensatory pick in the fourth round. The Patriots exchange virtually nothing for a fourth rounder and a player they never planned on having anyway.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, “Tom Brady told interested suitors that he wanted to bring Gronk with him wherever he signed.”
The Bucs deny that signing Gronk was a precondition. But let’s be honest. What could Brady ask for that the Bucs would say no to at this point?
Much like Bruce Arians a year ago, Brady now wields the most power in the Bucs organization.
While Arians has said his offense will be a collaborative effort, the Bucs used a personnel grouping that featured one running back and two tight ends only 20 percent of the time last season — 13th-most in the league. You can expect to see that grouping more often this season, whether it’s Gronkowski and O.J. Howard at the two tight end spots, or Gronkowski and Cameron Brate.
Reports also continue to swirl that O.J. Howard is on the trade block. It’s true the Bucs may deal him for the right price. They have until May to pick up his fifth-year option, which is guaranteed against only injury.
But right now he is under his rookie deal and relatively cheap at just under $2 million in base salary. With his pro-rated signing bonus, he counts just over $3.5 million against the salary cap.
Brate just restructured his contract, taking a $1.75 million reduction for 2020 to remain with the team and will earn $4.25 million this season with $4 million guaranteed.
Whether this makes him more vulnerable than Howard remains to be seen. But it is possible to keep Gronkowski, Howard, Brate and Antony Auclair on the roster.
As the video Brady posted on Twitter shows, when the GOAT wants something, at least in Tampa Bay, he gets it.