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Gronkowski comes out of retirement, will reunite with Brady, play for Arians in Tampa

KAREN GUREGIAN
Boston Herald (TNS)
Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Another all-time great is leaving New England to become a Buccaneer.

The Patriots are trading retired tight end Rob Gronkowski and a 2020 seventh-round pick to Tampa Bay for a 2020 fourth-round pick, sources tell the Herald. The Pats are sending Gronkowski’s rights to the Bucs, who will soon reinstate him as a member of their team. The future Hall of Famer retired last spring after nine NFL seasons that thrust him into the conversation of greatest tight end to ever play.

Gronkowski, who will play for York High graduate Bruce Arians, passed a physical Tuesday to complete the trade. The Pats’ new fourth-rounder is either the 117th or 139th overall pick, keeping them at 12 selections total in the upcoming draft, second-most in the league.

Gronkowski has one year remaining on his contract. It carries a base salary of $9 million that will immediately count against Tampa Bay’s cap. The Pats currently hold less than $2 million in cap space.

Reuniting with Brady and rediscovering the joy of playing football appear to be Gronk’s primary motivations for coming out of retirement. Two years ago, he threatened retirement to stop a trade before the 2018 draft that would have sent him to Detroit. The reason? He didn’t want to play with another quarterback.

“[Tom] Brady’s my quarterback. That’s all,” Gronkowski explained to reporters months later. “Wasn’t going anywhere without Brady.”

Brady signed a 2-year, $59 million contract with the Bucs in mid-March. Without Gronkowski last season, he posted some of the worst numbers of his career at age 42. The all-time duo won three Super Bowls together after joining forces in 2010.

Gronk, who turns 31 in May, left the door open to a return several times since retiring. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, floated the idea of a reunion with Brady mere hours after Gronk announced he was stepping away.

“If the team was struggling or they needed him at some point next year, and let’s just say hypothetically Tom Brady gave him a call and said ‘Rob, I need you.’ I wouldn’t be shocked if he came back to play a few games,” Rosenhaus told ESPN last spring.

On Tuesday, Rosenhaus confirmed to multiple reporters that Gronkowski will play on his contract.

Former Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who left for Miami as a free agent this offseason, also chimed on the trade Tuesday via livestream on Twitch. He speculated that the vetoed trade to Detroit was a turning point in Gronkowski’s relationship with the franchise.

“I think he got salty after he found out he was going to get traded to the Lions and vetoed that trade. He’s like ‘I’ll retire if you trade me.’ I think he was just over the Pats after that,” Van Noy said.

In January, Gronkowski said he weighs around 250 pounds, down 15 from his playing days. He’s long maintained he’s still in shape, working out six to seven times a week and embracing a new diet; indications he may need only weeks of training to return to football.

A five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro, Gronkowski has totaled 602 catches for 9,024 yards and 91 touchdowns.

In Tampa Bay, Gronk will add to one of the most talented offensive rosters in the league. The Bucs boast two Pro Bowl wideouts in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, plus pass-catching threats at tight end in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Their offensive line also graded out as one of the NFL’s best pass-blocking units last season at Pro Football Focus.