Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement Tuesday, and longtime teammate Tom Brady was one of many to wish the former New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end all the best in his life after the NFL.
Brady posted a photo of himself and Gronkowski on Instagram with the caption:
"Teammate, friend, brother, just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of @gronk. Nobody has ever embodied the idea of 'leaving it all out on the field' like Rob has throughout his entire career. Every single snap, I knew that no matter how many people you put in front of him, he was going to get to his spot.
"Even more important is the person he was off the field. Focused when he had to be, and FUN the rest of the time. Having Gronk in your locker room was every NFL players dream. I'm proud of all that we've accomplished together, and even more excited for all you have ahead of you.
"Congrats Gronk, you deserve it."
The 33-year-old Gronkowski spent his entire career catching passes from Brady.
The Patriots selected him in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft. He teamed up with Brady for nine seasons and won three Super Bowls before he announced his retirement after the 2018 season.
When Brady signed with the Buccaneers in 2020, he recruited Gronkowski out of retirement. The duo spent the past two seasons together in Tampa Bay, winning a Super Bowl title during the 2020 season.
Gronkowski caught 733 passes for 10,883 yards and 105 touchdowns from Brady during his 11-year career, including the postseason. Brady will undoubtedly miss one of his favorite targets next season.
Without Gronkowski (48 games), Brady has completed 60.8 percent of his passes and averaged 261.6 yards per game with a quarterback rating of 89.6. With Gronkowski, though, Brady has completed 66.0 percent of his passes and averaged 291.6 yards per game with a 103.8 quarterback rating.
It'll be difficult for Brady to find that connection with any other player, though he has developed a solid relationship with Bucs wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
With Gronkowski in retirement, Cameron Brate is expected to be Tampa Bay's top tight end in 2022. The team also has Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Codey McElroy and Ben Beise.
However, if none of those players can handle the role, then it's possible Gronkowski returns during the upcoming campaign.
His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN's Adam Schefter: "It would not surprise me if Tom Brady calls him during the season to come back and Rob answers the call. This is just my opinion but I wouldn't be surprised if Rob comes back during the season or next season."
Considering Brady is nearing retirement himself, it wouldn't be a shock if he convinced Gronkowski to run it back in pursuit of another title, especially considering both players have unretired before.