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Five Questions About Rob Gronkowski Joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gronk’s decision to unretire and follow Tom Brady to Florida may seem shocking on the surface, but the ex-Pat was never far away from the league, even during his year off

Getty Images/AP Images/Ringer illustration

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are officially transforming into the Ex-Patriots. After a year of retirement, Rob Gronkowski is coming back, and pending a physical, he’ll join Tom Brady in a post-retirement community/NFL team in Florida.

Gronk’s decision to unretire isn’t quite as surprising as Brady’s decision to leave New England after six Super Bowls—Gronk retired at the unusually young age of 29 and proceeded to spend most of his year away from the game half-hinting at a potential return. Sure, he joined the WWE, did some TV spots, hawked CBD oil, and partied a lot … but he kind of did all that while he was actively in the NFL too, and he’s not even the first Hall of Fame tight end to recently unretire after a season away. Rumors of Gronk going to Tampa were so widespread that he was asked about it Monday night during an interview with Andy Cohen of Bravo—not the usual forum for NFL breaking news.

Gronk has made it clear on multiple occasions that he only wants to play with Brady—he turned down a trade to the Lions two years ago—so when Tom went to Tampa, that became his most likely destination. It’s weird to see either player in a non-Patriots uniform, but it almost makes more sense with the two of them together.

Gronkowski is technically still under contract with the Patriots, so Tampa Bay had to put together a trade for him.

The Patriots are getting only a fourth-rounder in exchange for a future Hall of Famer, which sounds bad. But it’s found money: Gronk was literally retired with no chance of coming back to the Pats, and New England got something for him. Considering how the Pats have found gold with late-round picks in the past, it can’t hurt. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers get one of the greatest tight ends ever to play the game, and they’re reconnecting him with the Hall of Fame QB who helped make him great. For a fourth-round pick.

Gronk was plagued by injuries throughout his career, and now he’s had a full year away from the game to recuperate. Brady had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2019, leading many to assume he was finally washed up; perhaps with Gronk back, he can prove it was just a lack of receiver talent.

There are a lot of questions to be answered about how this happened, what this means going forward, and whether Gronk will also soon be kicked out of a Tampa park. Here are some quick ones:

1. Does Gronk have to relinquish his WWE 24/7 championship, which he won at WrestleMania earlier this month? Considering the rules surrounding the belt, it would stand to reason that if Gronk brings it into the league, any NFL player who tackles and pins him for three seconds will become the WWE’s new 24/7 champion. Expand that process out a bit and we could potentially see the title belt get passed throughout the entire NFL. Is this the second time Vince McMahon has lost to the NFL in about two weeks?

2. Is Gronk returning to football because he believes he has cured his own case of CTE? Look, I’m happy Gronk is coming back, but I just want to make sure he’s fully aware of the latest science on brains.

3. How many more Patriots are going to defect to the Tompa–St. Gronkersburg metropolitan area? (Sorry, I’m working on it.) Is Wes Welker coming? Vince Wilfork? Julian Edelman? (Maybe not—he seems to be taking the news poorly.) What about all the still-active ex-Patriots scattered around the league, like Malcolm Butler and Adam Vinatieri? Is Mike Vrabel gonna step down as head coach of the Titans to suit up? What, exactly, are Matthew Slater and Bill Belichick doing up in New England this year that’s so important they can’t fly down to join the snowbirds party on the Gulf Coast?

4. Is Zombie Gronk better than the Buccaneers’ current tight end, O.J. Howard? Howard was a first-round pick in 2017 and is a spectacular athlete, while Gronk had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2018 before spending a year away from football.

5. And a follow-up question: Does it matter? The entire Tampa Tom experience is a gamble for everybody involved. The Bucs might as well do whatever it takes to make Brady comfortable as he tries to recreate his many glories in a strange location.