An argument can be made that Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in NFL history, but it sure will be strange seeing him and Tom Brady in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform this season. Here are Gronkowski’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year as well as the Bucs’ over/under win total.
Gronkowski retired following the 2018 season, going out as a Super Bowl champion. He won three Super Bowls in his career and made five Pro Bowl appearances. He’s going to the Hall of Fame someday.
Gronk said at the time that he had to look ahead past football, “In order to do something bigger in life … I felt like I had to get away from the game and focus on my health.” He had suffered multiple injuries to his forearm, back and knee in his career.
Gronk looked many steps slower in 2018, but he still managed a 47/682/3 line in 13 games before going 12/166 between the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl. His 15.1 yards per reception lead all active tight ends with at least 100 career catches.
When Tom Brady decided to shock the world and leave New England for Tampa, Gronk decided to come out of retirement and join him. The Bucs sent the Patriots a fourth-round pick.
“I was getting questions all the time,” Gronkowski said of his return. “I was getting opportunities throughout [my] whole retirement to come back, which is special. I’m definitely blessed to have had those opportunities big time, but I said it from the beginning that I wouldn’t come back unless I was feeling it; unless I’m feeling good, feeling healthy and I’m feeling like I’m ready to go. Now this is the case. This is the time.”
Brady and Gronk hooked up for 78 career touchdowns, which is the most Brady threw to any individual receiver, by no small margin. (Randy Moss is second with half as many TDs — he snagged 39 TD passes from Brady). Not only that, but the Brady-Gronkowski pairing is the fifth-most prolific touchdown combination in NFL history. The record is 112 by Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.
Since Gronkowski made his NFL debut in 2010, Brady has been much more effective throwing to him than to the other targets at his disposal. Over that span, he had a 95.0 passer rating when targeting any receiver not named Gronkowski but a 121.6 passer rating when Gronk was his intended target.
Gronkowski said he currently weighs 240 pounds. Gronk claims he played around 265 pounds in his final year with the Pats. He also said that the extended rest was needed after his body had been worn down, noting, “That’s one of my last final things I got to get fixed on my body and it’s that quad contusion I took from the Super Bowl over a year ago. There’s still a little dent in my quad from it.”
Few players, especially at tight end, have his combination of athleticism, physical strength and football IQ. He’s been a matchup nightmare throughout his career and should continue to be that in 2020.
The Bucs already featured one of the league’s best wide receiver tandems in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and Gronk is one of three above-average tight ends at Brady’s disposal. As such, ESPN analyst and former NFL player Ryan Clark believes Gronk will really earn his keep with the Bucs in the biggest moments.
“I don’t think my expectations are for him to challenge Travis Kelce and George Kittle to be the top pass-catching tight in the league,” Clark said. “But what I do think is important is he’s going to be there for those situational football moments that Tom Brady needs him for. I also believe we’re going to see him show up more late in games and late in the season.”
Gronk is on the final year of a six-year contract he signed with the Patriots in 2014. He recently hinted on Instagram that he might be open to playing two seasons with Tampa though. Brady is under contract with the Bucs through 2021 and Tampa Bay plays New England in 2021. You now Brady and Gronk will have that game circled.