PALM HARBOR — The cramming for the draft has concluded, or nearly all of it, anyway. In fact, Bucs coach Todd Bowles said Sunday he intends to play in Monday afternoon’s Arians Family Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic at Innisbrook.
“The work is done, the hay is almost quite in the barn,” Bowles said during Sunday evening’s pre-golf gala at the resort. “But there’s still a few kinks to work out.”
Among them: the 2022 status of tight end Rob Gronkowski and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, who are free agents. Whether the immediate future of either will be known before the Bucs make their first draft pick late Thursday evening remains unclear.
“It’s up in the air right now, but I feel OK about it,” Bowles said. “There are still things to work out, and we’ll see what the draft brings and we’ll keep working with those guys, as well.”
Neither Gronk nor Suh appeared at Sunday night’s gala, which attracted a number of current players, including receiver Mike Evans, offensive tackles Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs, defensive lineman William Gholston and cornerback Carlton Davis.
But the team’s restructuring of quarterback Tom Brady’s deal offered the latest glimmer of hope for fans eager to see the two veterans — selected first-team All-Pro a combined seven times — in pewter this fall. The tweaking of Brady’s deal — which still makes him a free agent after this season — is believed to free up about $9 million in salary-cap space.
Last year, the pair — both playing on one-year deals — counted only a combined $6.2 million against the cap because the team added voidable years to their respective deals, allowing them to prorate their signing bonuses and count money against future years.
In the case of the 35-year-old Suh, his future could hinge on whether the team takes a defensive tackle in the first round Thursday. Regardless of whether Gronkowski comes back, the Bucs are expected to take a tight end at some point this weekend; veteran Cameron Brate and practice-squad regular Codey McElroy are the only tight ends currently on the active roster.
Bowles said he’d like some clarity on Gronk and Suh before Thursday — ideally.
“If possible, yeah,” he said. “But that’s not going to detract our board, though.”
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