TAMPA BAY – The words “Buccaneers” and “retirement” have become rather synonymous, lately.

Tampa Bay’s latest foray into the post-working life involves tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has been mulling over the thought of hanging it up these last few months. Gronkowski made his retirement official on Tuesday, leaving the Buccaneers without one of their top players.

Whether or not Gronkowski stays retired throughout the season remains to be seen and it can be easily argued that he eventually returns to the game. But for now, in this moment, he is in fact retired.

And the Buccaneers have some rather large questions at the tight end position.

Cameron Brate leads the way and he has starting experience, but he’s more of a role player at this point in his career. After Brate it’s Codey McElroy and a bunch of rookies led by fourth- and seventh-round draft picks Cade Otton and Ko Kieft, respectively.

The Buccaneers will likely have a massive problem at the tight end position if Brate goes down for an extended period of time, so, they should take a look at who’s available in free agency and maybe even explore the possibility of a trade.

The Buccaneers have enough cap space for a solid signing or trade with a little over $10.4 million in their pockets.. They aren’t very limited when it comes to making a move.

So, who should Jason Licht and co. take a look at? And more importantly, which player would Tom Brady want the most?

Below are three possibilities.

MyCole Pruitt

The trick, here, is figuring out which tight ends are not only good receivers, but adequate blockers, as well. Gronkowski’s service as a blocker was instrumental in the success the Buccaneers experienced over the last couple of years.

Pruitt is not only a solid blocker, but he’s a very versatile player that can line up all over the offense, including the backfield, the slot, and out wide. His career receiving numbers won’t blow anyone away, but he has reliable hands, evidenced by his 4.2% drop rate, per Pro Football Focus.

Pruitt is only 30 and will be very cheap, too.

Chris Herndon

Herdon has two seasons with 30+ receptions to his name and has eight receiving touchdowns over the last four years.

The former Jet and Viking had a very solid rookie campaign, but hasn’t kept the momentum going since.

2021 was easily the worst year of Herndon’s career, but he also played just 17% of offensive snaps through 16 games in Minnesota. He’s only 26-years-old and he can play the dual role of both blocker and receiver for the Buccaneers.

And, Todd Bowles drafted Herndon in the fourth round as head coach of the Jets back in 2018. So, there is some familiarity involved, as well.

Blake Jarwin

Jarwin would be the ultimate gamble, but the Bucs would hit it big if it were to work out.

The sixth-year player was once thought as the replacement for Jason Witten, the longtime Cowboy and future Hall of Famer. Injuries have kept Jarwin from reaching that potential over the last couple of years and he was recently released by the Cowboys after undergoing hip surgery earlier in the year.

The Buccaneers can ease Jarwin in while Brate and the others pull their weight and then once he’s 100%, he can become a bigger part of the offense. If the others aren’t effective, obviously. And even if the other tight ends do work out, Jarwin would provide depth.

Jarwin has shown he can play at a high level in the NFL, but all of the injury uncertainty makes him a major risk. But, scared money doesn’t make money, at the end of the day and Jarwin has the potential to be a big get if everything works out.

It just all depends on whether or not the Buccaneers think he’s worth the risk.

Honorable Mentions

Jared Cook: He makes a ton of sense, but isn’t much of a blocker and he’s never really been asked to be one.

Eric Ebron: See above with Cook. However, Brady could certainly use a young, athletic tight end like Ebron and that could be the difference, at the end of the day.

Kyle Rudolph: Almost made the top-3 above.

Trade candidates

Dalton Schultz: He is tagged and wants a new deal. The Buccaneers could stand to find a permanent solution at the position, but they do have Otton on the roster. Schultz’s situation likely nukes this.

Dawson Knox: The Bills love Knox, but they can’t keep paying everyone and they are currently $13 million over the cap in 2023. The Bills also have O.J. Howard on the roster, who’s shown he can produce in the NFL. The cupboard wouldn’t be completely bare in Buffalo if Knox were traded.

Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports