Rob Gronkowski needed Tom Brady to leave the Patriots to make his decision to un-retire and return to the NFL. Gronkowski will be joining Brady on the Buccaneers after a sudden, shocking trade that went down on Tuesday afternoon, just two days before the 2020 NFL Draft.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that New England is dealing the rights to Gronkowski, along with a seventh-round pick, to Tampa Bay. In exchange, they’ll receive a fourth-round pick this year.
So what does Sporting News think of this trade? Here’s breaking down how both the Patriots and Buccaneers did:
Patriots grade: A+
As far as the Patriots were concerned, Gronkowski was completely out of the picture, given their semi-rebuilding status with Bill Belichick and Gronk wanting to play with only Brady again. So the Patriots, with no second-round pick — and three third rounders — in essence upgraded a pick by three rounds on Day 3 for zero cost.
The Patriots will likely need to address tight end in the draft, and now have an extra pick with which to to do that. They might be picking too late to take the top receiving prospect at the position, Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet, but will have a shot at Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins, Washington’s Hunter Bryant or FAU’s Harrison Bryant on Day 2. Among the Day 3 options will be Dayton’s Adam Trautman, Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam and LSU’s Thaddeus Moss.
Buccaneers grade: C
On paper, landing Gronkowski gives the Bucs a devastatingly big receiving corps with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at wideout and Gronk, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate at tight end. The problem is, Bruce Arians’ offense isn’t always the best environment for one receiving tight end, let alone three. History suggests his downfield passing game works consistently better with 11 personnel (three wideouts).
Also, tight end wasn’t nearly as a big of a need for the Bucs as a right tackle, a pass-catching running back or a speedy, big-play outside threat to support Evans and Godwin — especially after the team chose to not to re-sign Breshad Perriman at around the same one-year cost as Gronkowski.
The Bucs need to use Howard to move up from No. 14 in the draft to ensure they get one of the top tackles. That’s how they make this trade make any real sense, beyond reuniting Gronk with his best buddy. Howard was in and out of Arians’ doghouse last year and will become a free agent in 2021 if the Bucs don’t exercise their club option on his rookie contract. Even if Gronk is a short-term play, it makes sense to deal Howard with Brate locked in long term.
Gronkowski also has been away from the game for over a year and turns 31 in May, carrying his recent history of wear and tear to Tampa Bay. There’s no guarantee Gronk will be elite again, or turn back the clock for Brady.
It’s a nice chance for Gronkowski to get back in the league, but it’s questionable that the Bucs accommodated that desire unless they have strong follow-up moves planned to go “all in” on a Super Bowl run with Brady and a truly upgraded offense. Adding Gronk can still work out, but it’s difficult to deny all the ifs associated with that in the moment.
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