Rob Gronkowski Rumors: Bucs 'Loosely Planning' for TE; Decision Expected in Late July

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 20, 2022

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 14: Rob Gronkowski (87) of the Buccaneers warms up before the preseason game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on August 14, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers remain optimistic Rob Gronkowski will commit to play in the 2022 NFL season, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

Fowler reported Monday on Get Up that the Bucs “are simply waiting, giving him his space” and “loosely planning for him to be in the lineup.”

Still, Gronkowski's future remains up in the air, and Fowler added that a final decision may not come until "late July."

The five-time Pro Bowler offered a cryptic comment on social media in May. He told Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette he'd be wearing Fournette's No. 7 jersey in the stands this year.

JennaLaineESPN @JennaLaineESPN

.<a href="https://twitter.com/RobGronkowski?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RobGronkowski</a> responds to <a href="https://twitter.com/_fournette?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_fournette</a>... “I’ll represent a 7 jersey in the stands for ya.” <a href="https://t.co/qqtnbIGuGz">pic.twitter.com/qqtnbIGuGz</a>

Gronkowski told USA Today's Josh Peter in April he was open to giving it at least one more season:

"I've played 11 years. It's not like you wake up after a game and you're feeling amazing. It's a beating. You get hit every single play.
“So if I'm not all in to do that, then I'm not going to put myself out there in that situation. But if I'm feeling that, if I want to go knock my head around, you know, put my body on the line, if I feel like doing that again, miss that, I would certainly sign another contract."

The 33-year-old continued to be an excellent option in a slightly more limited role for the Buccaneers in 2021. He caught 55 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns. His 14.6 yards per reception and 66.8 yards per game were both his highest since 2017.

Much like how they did little to account for the possibility of Tom Brady staying retired, the Bucs haven't exactly lined up a successor to Gronkowski if he walks away for good.

O.J. Howard signed with the Buffalo Bills, and the team's outside additions at tight end arrived through the draft (fourth-rounder Cade Otton and sixth-rounder Ko Kieft).

The Bucs did at least bolster their passing game by signing Russell Gage, who's effectively a replacement for Antonio Brown.

Still, losing Gronkowski would undoubtedly be a blow for a franchise in win-now mode.