Rob Gronkowski, arguably the greatest tight end in NFL history, has retired for a second time. Gronkowski, who throughout this offseason had been noncommittal about his future, has decided to walk away from football after 11 seasons and four Super Bowl titles.
"I will now be going back into my retirement home, walking away from football again with my head held high knowing I gave it everything I had, good or bad, every time I stepped out on the field," Gronkowski wrote on Instagram. "The friendships and relationships I have made will last forever, and I appreciate every single one of my teammates and coaches for giving everything they had well."
An all-decade performer for the 2010s, Gronkowski spent nine seasons with the Patriots and two with the Buccaneers after unretiring before the 2020 season. A four-time Super Bowl champion, Gronkowski caught 621 passes for 9,286 yards and 92 touchdowns during his career. His 15 career postseason touchdown catches is second all-time behind only Jerry Rice.
Gronkowski spent the 2019 season in retirement before joining Tom Brady in Tampa. After a slow start, Gronkowski caught 45 passes for 623 yards and seven touchdowns during his first season with the Buccaneers. He then caught two touchdown passes in Tampa Bay's Super Bowl win over Kansas City.
Gronkowski's numbers were even better in 2021. Despite playing in just 12 games, Gronkowski caught 55 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns. It was his best statistical season since 2017, when he earned All-Pro honors for the fourth time.
The Buccaneers selected two tight ends during the 2022 NFL Draft in the event that Gronkowski would not return for the upcoming season. But Tampa had remained open to the possibility of Gronkowski returning to the fold.
"Rob is a true professional who left it all on the field for us the past two seasons and helped establish a championship culture in our building," Buccaneers GM Jason Licht said in a statement. "It is always difficult to see a great player walk away from the game when he is still enjoying that kind of success, but the overwhelming emotions I feel today are gratitude and respect for one of the greatest tight ends who ever played the game."
The Gronkowski era in Tampa is over, and it's time for the Buccaneers' new, young tight ends to begin the process of trying to fill his Lombardi Trophy-sized shoes. Without Gronkowski, the Buccaneers' odds at winning the NFC fell from 22.1% to 20.5%, according to CBS Sports data scientist Stephen Oh. Tampa's odds at winning the Super Bowl also dipped, from 11.8% to 11.2%.