Gronk to make return to NFL, join Brady with Bucs

Rob Gronkowski is making his return to the NFL.|Art or Photo Credit: AP

Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement and was traded to Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reunite with quarterback Tom Brady, both teams announced Tuesday.

The Buccaneers sent a fourth-round pick (No. 139 overall) to the Patriots, who sent back a seventh-rounder (No. 241) with Gronkowski. ESPN reported that Gronkowski passed his physical with an independent physician in Boston to complete the deal.

Gronkowski texted Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, "I'm back. I always said when I have that feeling and it feels right, I will be ready to take the field again. And I have that feeling. I'm ready."

NFL Network reported that Gronkowski, who turns 31 in May, has been putting on weight for a return to football after spending the 2019 season retired.

Tampa Bay made a run at acquiring Gronkowski -- perhaps at Brady's urging -- and landed the player who ranks third all-time in touchdown receptions (79) by a tight end, trailing leader Antonio Gates (116) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez (111).

"Rob Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in NFL history and he plays the game with the type of passion and desire that sets him apart," Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said in a statement. "Rob has played his entire career alongside Tom Brady and their accomplishments speak for themselves. Together they have developed the type of chemistry on and off the field that is crucial to success.

"Rob combines elite-level skills as both a receiver and blocker but what really makes him special is the fact that he's a proven winner who brings that championship mindset and work ethic."

Gronkowski had one year and $10 million remaining on his contract when he retired, so the Patriots still held his rights. He has been performing in the WWE recently, including winning the 24/7 title at WrestleMania 36 earlier this month.

Gronkowski suggested in a video with Andy Cohen published Monday that there was a possibility of teaming up in Tampa Bay with Brady, who signed with the Buccaneers as a free agent in March.

"I'm feeling good right now, I'm happy where I'm at," Gronkowski said of retirement. "You just never know, man. You never know. I'm not totally done."

Gronkowski said in November that he wouldn't say he was "never coming back," suggesting he could return to the league after a year or two away.

A five-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro, Gronkowski totaled 521 receptions for 7,861 yards and the 79 touchdowns across nine seasons for the Patriots from 2010-18. He had 47 catches for 682 yards and three scores over 13 games in 2018, battling a few nagging injuries.

The Buccaneers already have tight ends Cameron Brate and former first-round pick O.J. Howard on their roster, but Howard is reportedly available via trade.

Gronkowski said in September 2018 he weighed retirement months earlier when the Detroit Lions and Patriots discussed a trade that would have shipped the tight end out of New England.