TAMPA BAY – It’s still unclear as to whether or not Rob Gronkowski returns to the Buccaneers in 2022. Or football, for that matter.

But even if he returns, the Buccaneers had to find another tight end in the draft. They were unable to bring one in during free agency and currently have just two tight ends in Cameron Brate and practice squader Codey McElroy on the roster.

That’s exactly what the Buccaneers did with the first pick on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. With the 106th overall pick -the extra fourth-rounder gained in the Jacksonville trade- they decided to select former Washington Huskie tight end Cade Otton.

Otton was one of the players the Buccaneers hosted on their top-30 visit, so the interest was clearly there leading up to the draft. Tampa Bay also spoke with six tight ends throughout the draft process, so it was pretty clear drafting a tight end was a goal this year.

Otton is a player who has solid hands, is a good route runner, and is sufficient in the blocking game. He’s not a very explosive player and he’s not going to make many plays after the catch, but the other aspects of his game help offset that, to an extent.

There’s a legitimate chance Otton can win the No. 2 tight end spot during training camp or throughout the season. Assuming Gronkowski comes back, of course. And even if Gronkowski doesn’t come back, Otton would still likely be the No. 2 guy behind Brate. If things go well enough, he may even have a shot at winning the starting gig in this scenario.

But, regardless of Gronk’s playing status in 2022, Otton has the skillset and the pro-style offense experience to eventually take over for the future Hall of Famer. Whether it’s sooner or later.

Featured image via Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports