Rob Gronkowski, the All-Pro tight end who left the NFL after the 2018 season, plans to return to the league, this time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gronkowski, who did not officially retire when he stepped away from the game in March 2019, was traded by his old team, the New England Patriots, to Tampa Bay, where he will be reunited with quarterback Tom Brady, pending a physical examination.
The Patriots will send Gronkowski and their seventh-round pick in this week’s NFL draft to the Buccaneers, and receive Tampa Bay’s fourth-round pick in return.
Brady, 42, who became a free agent for the first time after spending two decades in New England, signed a two-year contract worth as much as $60 million last month with the Buccaneers.
Gronkowski, the game’s most dominant tight end during his nine years in New England, helped the Patriots win three Super Bowl titles. His goofy, frat-boy persona off the field made him one of the more colorful players in the league.
But on the field, he was no joke. In nine seasons, Gronkowski, who will turn 31 next month, caught 521 passes for 7,861 yards and a Patriots-record 79 receiving touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl five times and was first-team All-Pro four times, taking full advantage of his size and speed to find mismatches. He was often considered Brady’s favorite target, and a big one at 6-foot-6.
However, a series of injuries led to questions about how much longer he could play. He hinted for several seasons that he was considering leaving the NFL because of the wear and tear on his body, which led to missed games because of numerous injuries, including a torn knee ligament, a broken forearm and a herniated disc in his back, among others.