He had seemingly wavered on whether to return for the 2022 season, but now, barring a change of heart later on, he will not be on the field this year.
It may not be a huge blow to Tampa Bay’s hopes of winning its second Super Bowl in three years, but it’s a blow nonetheless, as Gronkowski’s size and athleticism made him a huge target for Tom Brady, especially in red-zone situations.
Luckily, the Buccaneers still have a stacked roster, especially on the offensive side of the football, and if these three players pick up the slack, they could be playing for the world championship this winter in Arizona.
3. Mike Evans
Mike Evans has been one of Tampa Bay’s best and most reliable weapons on offense ever since it drafted him with the seventh pick in 2014.
Like Gronkowski, Evans possesses enviable size, as he stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 231 pounds.
He has earned four trips to the Pro Bowl in his eight-year career, and last year he gave the Buccaneers 1,035 yards and 14 touchdowns.
In fact, Evans may be a little underappreciated, especially when fans and experts discuss the top wide receivers in pro football.
I think Mike Evans has to be the most weirdly ranked player. A lot of ppl have him top 10 (seen as high as 7) and a lot of ppl think he’s like barely top 20
— Will Starliper (@440_sports) June 20, 2022
Despite his talent and skill, he hasn’t had a ton of passes thrown his way over the years.
Mike Evans targets per game:
2021 – 7.5
2020 – 7
2019 – 9.7
2018 – 8.6
2017 – 9.1
2016 – 10.8
2015 – 9.9
2014 – 8.2
He’s now played two seasons with Tom Brady and he’s been under 8.0 targets per game
Are we really sure “overall WR1” is in his range of outcomes?
— Adam Koffler (@AdamKoffler) June 21, 2022
With Gronkowski gone, Evans may have to flirt with a 100-reception season if the Bucs are to make a run at the Super Bowl.
He did catch 96 balls in 2016, so perhaps it’s a goal that is not too far-fetched.
The onus will likely be on Evans even more early in the season with one of his best fellow wideouts unable to play.
2. Chris Godwin
Chris Godwin and Evans make up one of the NFL’s better wide receiver duos, at least in terms of production.
But Godwin tore his ACL in December, dooming Tampa Bay’s championship hopes, and the injury will cost him at least part of this coming season.
We still don't have a good timeline for when Chris Godwin might return healthy. Would be optimistic to have him practicing in training camp/preseason, but also possible they take it slow, make sure he's fully healthy before rushing him back. https://t.co/bbJ0nMYsm0
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) June 21, 2022
When he does return, Godwin needs to quickly return to form, and with the improvements in the rehab process from such an injury, it may be a realistic expectation, once he regains his functional game fitness.
Last season, in 14 contests, he posted 1,103 yards and five touchdowns, and in 2019 he made the Pro Bowl with 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns.
Without Gronkowski to feast in one-on-one situations off single coverage, Tampa Bay will presumably need a little more motion offensively to spring Godwin and Evans open, but both must also take it upon themselves to up their production, especially in games that mean more.
1. Cameron Brate
As of now, Cameron Brate is slated to become the Bucs’ new starting tight end.
He’s not exactly a bad one, as he put up four touchdowns last year (he started three of 17 contests) and once put up 660 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016.
But he’s not a clone of Gronkowski, and no one else is.
Gronk missed weeks 4-10 last season
Cameron Brate had an opportunity with no Gronk last season, and he didn’t capitalize (see below)
I’m sure they’ll add a veteran TE in FA…
but in the meantime, I’ll take the shot on upside with Cade Otton > Brate, especially if he’s cheaper pic.twitter.com/ZgVIK8e5G0
— Aidan Maher (@Aidan_Maher17) June 22, 2022
Brate will have to make some of the plays that Gronkowski used to make, and fans seem divided on whether he has it in him to step up his productivity.