The Buccaneers ceded control of their near future to Tom Brady the moment they publicly swooned over the future Hall of Famer in free agency and drew him south from New England. So nothing should really surprise us when it comes to pacifying Tampa Bay’s new showpiece.
That includes drawing the current World Wrestling Entertainment 24/7 champion (and former New England Patriot) Rob Gronkowski out of retirement on Tuesday. Gronkowski, who retired from the NFL and spent the previous year partying on the beach, hocking cannabis oil and doing some football studio appearances for a network partner, now enters a crowded landscape of solid tight ends on the Buccaneers’ roster (along with former first-round pick O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate), at least one of whom will now become expendable ahead of the 2020 NFL draft. It basically cost the Buccaneers a fourth-round pick.
It is awesome in the kind of way a formation of a rock supergroup is awesome. At first glance, we’re blown away by the growing number of stars in one man’s orbit. Would we be surprised if Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola show up at some point? What is Chris Hogan doing these days? In Tampa, Brady can finally operate as a true marquee talent who wants and needs certain things to succeed—and not as a faux humble servant to the greater good of the team.
Now, we wait patiently to see what actually happens. Do we get Damn Yankees or the Traveling Wilburys?
When you import someone of Brady’s cachet, there is a certain loss of control for the team, whether consciously or unconsciously. This is more common in the NBA, where smaller rosters mean more important singular talents, who have expanded their muscle. The idea of a superteam in the NBA is attainable and, despite the rabble-rousing from those who bemoan the loss of what used to be, good for the sport. In the NFL it’s nearly impossible, but that doesn’t stop teams from trying. It is only when the whole thing is over, and they are left with the discarded remnants of the party, that they have to come to terms with all the chain reaction decisions that reverberate from one singular transaction.
Trading for Gronkowski could be fortuitous for the Buccaneers, don’t get me wrong. He is only 31 and, after years of absorbing unholy abuses as both a battering ram blocker and constant over-the-middle receiving target, he had time in 2019 to heal his body and enjoy the trappings of fame and fortune away from the conformist society in New England. We are in that phase of the supergroup formulation, projecting Gronkowski’s past successes onto an offense that features better receivers than the tight end has played with throughout most of his career. It is fun. It is liberating. We are born hopeful suckers anew.
It could also turn out to be a fake gemstone in the league’s annually overhyped offseason champion crown. It was around this time last year that we couldn’t keep ourselves from wondering about the limits of a Browns offense that contained Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, only to spend the long prime time slog wondering if Beckham was even on the roster anymore.
Maybe Brady redefines the role of unofficial superteam general manager the way he did the quarterback position over 20 fruitful seasons in New England. That would legitimize the whole deal and save the gamblers in the Bucs’ front office who set this entire fireworks show in motion a few weeks ago. Or, it may end the way a lot of these things do, with the high point of the experiment coming at the merchandise tent, long before the first snap of the season is actually taken.
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