Initially, it looked like Rob Gronkowski's future in the NFL was going to be as wide open as it's ever been. After spending the previous two seasons with the Buccaneers, the legendary tight end was set to enter free agency with no clear landing spot. After all, Tom Brady was off in retirement, putting him on the doorstep of possibly playing with a brand new quarterback or electing to go back into retirement.
However, Brady's decision to come out of retirement does change the calculous of Gronkowski's free agency. While he is still on the open market, a return to Tampa Bay does seem more likely. However, pen has not been put to paper yet, so there is still the potential for him to play elsewhere in 2022 or fade into retirement yet again.
From what we saw on the field in 2021, Gronkowski still has some fuel in the tank. In 12 games played, the soon-to-be 33-year-old caught 55 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns. Those receiving yards had him third on the team behind Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, while his six receiving scores ranked second.
While we wait to see what Gronkowski plans to do next in his career, let this post be your hub for everything revolving around the tight end. Below, you'll find potential landing spots, a look at his projected contract, and a nugget-by-nugget news rundown of all the latest developments.
Salary cap figures come from Spotrac.
Potential landing spots
This is the most romantic way for Gronkowski to finish out his career. The Bills are reportedly interested in bringing him aboard to boost their pass-catching options around Josh Allen and, given that Gronkowski is an upstate New York native, it would be a fitting bookend to finish out his career with his hometown team as they compete for a Super Bowl next season. Playing against his former team in the New England Patriots twice would also be a fun side story to follow.
Gronkowski has already stated that he wants to play with Joe Burrow and the Bengals could find themselves in the market for a tight end if C.J. Uzomah finds a more lucrative deal in free agency. Not only would Gronkowski add to the embarrassment of riches that Burrow has in the passing game, but the tight end is still a superb blocker. Increasing the protection around the young quarterback should be the priority for Cincinnati this offseason, and the addition of Gronkowski would help in that regard.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Tom Brady coming out of retirement, a return to Tampa Bay does seem likely. There is familiarity with the Buccaneers offense after playing there for the past two seasons and it would seem like he enjoyed playing under Bruce Arians over that stretch. With the history and chemistry that he has with Brady as his quarterback, the Bucs should be considered the favorite to retain the tight end.
This destination would reunite Gronkowski with his former offensive coordinator in New England in Josh McDaniels, who accepted the head coaching job with the Raiders earlier this offseason. McDaniels offense with the Patriots thrived when he was able to deploy two tight ends in 12-personnel and Las Vegas could pair Gronkowski with Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller to create a strong one-two punch for quarterback Derek Carr.
Gronkowski is coming off a one-year, $10 million contract he signed to remain with Tampa Bay following the club's Super Bowl LV title. According to Spotrac's market value calculations, the veteran tight end is looking at a similar type of contract as they project him to see a one-year deal worth $9.5 million.
While the Bills provide a storybook ending to his Hall of Fame career and fulfills a childhood dream, the fact that Tom Brady is back in Tampa likely means that Gronkowski will run it back with the Buccaneers. The tight end has always said that Brady is the only quarterback he'd ever want to play for and, with him back in the league, it seems inevitable that he re-ups with the Bucs.
Free agent timeline
April 5: Rob Gronkowski is still mulling his future in the NFL. The tight end was at a charity event recently and purposely avoided catching passes or doing any sort of football activity to avoid folks from jumping to conclusions about what his next steps may be.
"I knew if I started catching some passes that my head would have started turning, like, 'Oh, crap, I got to get back out on the field.' And, right now, I'm not ready to get back out on that field," Gronk told TMZ on Monday. "I'm not ready to commit to the game of football right now."
March 16: During a recent trip to a Tampa barbershop, Gronkowski was asked if he would be returning for his 12th season in the NFL. The tight end not only said that he's leaning towards playing, but that "there's a very good chance" he's also back with the Buccaneers.
BIG DEAL HERE: Free Agent TE Rob Gronkowski at a Tampa Barber Shop says, “there’s a very good chance” he’ll be back w/ #Bucs— 𝗭𝗮𝗰 𝗕𝗹𝗼𝗯𝗻𝗲𝗿🎙 (@ZacOnTheMic) March 16, 2022
Mentions making @TomBrady sweat, because he made Gronk wait a couple months 😂 payback style
My guy @amvilla29 with the vid
March 13: In a stunning move, Tom Brady has called off his retirement and is returning for his 23rd season in the NFL. Brady also made a note in his announcement that he will be playing the 2022 season with the Buccaneers. This announcement should dramatically change Gronkowski's free agency. Before this, it seemed that the tight end may be playing elsewhere in 2022, but now the momentum has likely shifted back in favor of him suiting up for the Bucs in 2022.
March 2: According to Tim Graham of The Athletic, the Buffalo Bills are open to signing Gronkowski as a free agent if he intends to continue his career. The Amherst, New York native grew up a Bills fan and Graham notes that there is hope in the Buffalo organization that he would be open to finishing out his career with his hometown team.
Feb. 8: During a question-and-answer session with Autograph NFTs, Gronkowski was asked what quarterback he would like to play with next season now that Brady has retired. The soon-to-be free agent was quick to identify Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
"I kinda like this young buck quarterback. He's in the Super Bowl now: It's Joe Burrow, man," Gronkowski said. "I watched him in college. I just love the way he presents himself out on the football field. In the pocket, he's just so calm and he just slings it out on the field."
While the Bengals will be in the market to boost their offensive line, they could look to add a tight end especially if C.J. Uzomah leaves in free agency.
Jan. 25: During his season-ending press conference on Monday, Gronkowski -- who originally retired following the 2018 season and returned in 2020 to join Tom Brady and the Buccaneers -- said that he'll take some time to figure out what his future in the NFL will be. He also said that he would be open to playing with another quarterback outside of Tom Brady, who has since retired.
"It's been an unbelievable ride. There's no doubt about it," Gronkowski said. "My decision for coming back was definitely solidified being here. I was very happy to come back and play football. Just being a part of this organization from [the front office], to all of my teammates here, I have much love for everyone in this organization. Last year, we won the Super Bowl – which is unbelievable."