TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Four-time All Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski is back in the NFL, reunited with Tom Brady.
Brady's new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, completed a trade for the retired New England star, sending a fourth-round pick in this week's draft — No. 139 overall — to the Patriots for Gronkowski and a seventh-round selection (No. 241).
“Rob Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in NFL history and he plays the game with the type of passion and desire that sets him apart,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said.
“Rob has played his entire career alongside Tom Brady and their accomplishments speak for themselves. Together they have developed the type of chemistry on and off the field that is crucial to success," Licht added. “Rob combines elite-level skills as both a receiver and blocker, but what really makes him special is the fact that he’s a proven winner who brings that championship mindset and work ethic.”
Brady, a six-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots, signed a two-year, $50 million contract with the Bucs in free agency last month.
Gronkowski was one of the league's most dominant tight ends when he walked away from the game in March 2019. He was part of teams that won nine division titles, appeared in eight AFC championship games and won three NFL titles in nine seasons.
Gronkowski, who turns 31 on May 14, has one year left on his contract at $10 million.
“He will honor his current contract at this time,” agent Drew Rosenhaus said.
In addition to 521 receptions for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns in 115 regular-season games, the five-time Pro Bowl selection has 81 catches for 1,163 yards and 12 TDs in 16 playoff games.
Even before adding Gronkowski, the tight end position was considered one of Tampa Bay’s biggest strengths, with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate teaming with Pro Bowl receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to form the best collection of targets Brady has had to work with in more than a decade.
The Bucs are coming off a 7-9 finish and missed the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season. They haven't won a postseason game since the franchise's only Super Bowl championship run 18 years ago.
Brady played in nine Super Bowls in 20 seasons with the Patriots, who appeared in 13 AFC championship games and won 17 division titles while the three-time league MVP was their primary starting quarterback.
A few days after signing with the Bucs in free agency, Brady said not only was he impressed with a talented young roster Tampa Bay has assembled in recent years but what he sensed is a commitment to do whatever necessary to be successful.
“I don’t want to get into every process to the decision I was making at the time, but there were a lot of things that really were intriguing to me about the organization — the players, and the coaches and the willingness of everyone to try to accomplish what the goal of playing football is, which is to win," the four-time Super Bowl MVP said.
“I’m going to try to do everything I can in my position, and in what I am responsible for to make it happen," Brady added. “I’ve got to trust that everyone else is doing the exact same thing. That part is no different from what I’ve experienced in 20 years of my own role.”
Gronkowski was an All-Pro in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2017. He had 43 receptions for 682 yards and three TDs in 2018, his final season with the Patriots.
Without his favorite target, Brady had one of his worst non-injury seasons last year, throwing for 4,057 yards with 24 TDs vs. eight interceptions.
The Patriots, nevertheless, won 12 games and extended their string of consecutive playoff appearances to 11 before a sputtering offense contributed to a first-round loss to the Tennessee Titans.