TAMPA, Fla. — As soon as Tom Brady announced his return for another season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the focus turned to one of his favorite targets on the field, tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Unfortunately, it was not to be, as the future Hall of Fame tight end announced his retirement on Tuesday.
"I want to thank the whole entire first-class Buccaneers organization for an amazing ride, trusting me to come back to play and help build a championship team. 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 said in a statement.
"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 as well. From retirement, back to football and winning another championship, and now back to chilling out, thank you to all."
This isn't the first time he's called it a career.
He previously retired after the 2018 season, ESPN reported, but he was coaxed out of retirement by Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady two years later.
The tight end's agent also told ESPN that he wouldn't be surprised if Brady again could lure Gronkowski out of retirement again.
“Gronk,” as he’s affectionately known around the sports world, finished his contract in Tampa at the end of last season and was officially a free agent.
Last season, he started 12 games and caught 55 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns.
According to Pro Football Reference, Gronk caught 62% of the passes he was targeted on last season, up from 58% the season before. He also averaged 67 yards receiving per game for the season.
For his career between Tampa and New England, Gronkowski finished with 621 catches for 9,286 yards and 92 touchdowns in the regular season and 98 catches for 1,389 yards and 15 touchdowns in the playoffs.
He was also an All-Pro four times and a pro bowler five times.
With Gronk out, the Bucs have a large hole at tight end as the offseason moves ahead. The Bucs' only tight end with more than one season of experience is Cameron Brate.
Looking at the available free agents, some more prominent names are on the list, including Jimmy Graham, Eric Ebron, Kyle Rudolph, Jared Cook, and others. But none of them would have the same impact on Gronk's game.
The Buccaneers have a little more than $10 million in cap space to sign a free agent, or the team could try to trade for another tight end.
Tim Kephart at WFTS first reported this story.