By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports writer
TAMPA- If things weren’t already exciting when it came to the prospects of how good the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be this 2020 season, Tuesday afternoon’s news made it jump exponentially.
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that the New England Patriots executed a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that would send tight end Rob Gronkowski and a seventh round pick for Tampa’s fourth round pick. The trade reunites Gronkowski with former New England quarterback Tom Brady, who signed with Tampa Bay via free agency after 20 seasons with the Patriots.
The trade has shocked the NFL world, as Tampa Bay could potentially be lining up wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin with Gronkowski, Cameron Brate and OJ Howard. Howard may end up being the odd player out on offense, however, as the former first round pick out of Alabama has been heavily rumored to be traded before or during the NFL Draft later this week.
Tampa Bay owns the No. 14 pick in this year’s NFL Draft, which will be held all virtually because of the COVID-19 threat that has impacted the world. The Buccaneers have needs on the offensive line, running back and possibly secondary but general manager Jason Licht has been known to take the best available player. That has been such in the last two drafts, as Tampa Bay has selected defensive tackle Vita Vea and linebacker Devin White. Both have been impact players for the team.
“Rob has played his entire career alongside Tom Brady and their accomplishments speak for themselves,” Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said about the acquisition of Gronkowski. “Together they have developed the type of chemistry on and off the field that is crucial to success.”
Gronkowski in his last season with New England in the 2018 season didn’t quite put up the kind of numbers he had been previously accustomed to putting up in past years. The former Pro Bowl tight end, however, still was effective through 13 games played and especially during the playoffs, Super Bowl LIII win against the Los Angeles Rams. Gronkowski notched 682 yards and three touchdowns, but did miss three games during the 2018 season.
In what has become one of the busiest off-seasons in Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ history, the franchise has positioned itself to be one of the best teams in the NFL heading into the 2020 campaign. It has come at a cost of making decisions on letting go key players and one of them was former starting quarterback Jameis Winston, who is still a free agent and has yet to sign with a club at the moment.
According to NFL.com insider Ian Rapoport, he said Winston is taking a methodical approach to free agency and will make a calculated decision before signing with anyone. After starting for the Buccaneers for the last five seasons and making a cool $45-million dollars, Winston will be able to wait the process out until a suitor of his liking comes reaching out for his services.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.