The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not had many holes on its roster over the last two seasons. However, after tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his decision to retire last week, Tom Brady lost his longtime security blanket.

Tampa Bay’s tight end room is thin on talent following Gronk’s departure, which some are predicting to be a temporary hiatus. The Bucs will not be forced to completely start over at tight end, but the lack of depth at the position is certainly something to keep an eye on.

NFL.com’s Kevin Patra ranks the Bucs’ need at tight end to be the sixth biggest roster hole in the NFL.

Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, coupled with O.J. Howard leaving for Buffalo in free agency, creates uncertainty at the tight end position for Tom Brady,” Patra writes. 

Cameron Brate is the main veteran target. Fourth-round pick Cade Otton, who missed time this offseason recovering from ankle surgery, is the best bet to take over snaps if healthy. Tampa also has sixth-round rookie Ko Kieft, 29-year-old Codey McElroy (one career catch) and rookie free agents JJ Howland and Ben Beise on the roster. That’s a lot of youth. The Bucs could look to the veteran free-agent market to add stability to a position Brady loves to target. Vets like Jared CookKyle Rudolph or Eric Ebron could be among the options.”

Cameron Brate is the lone tight end currently on the roster who has a rapport with Brady. Brate has totaled at least 30 receptions in five of his last six seasons with Tampa Bay. In 2021, he finished with 30 catches for 245 yards and four touchdowns. Brate has been, and will continue to be, an asset for Brady in the redzone.

Behind Brate is where things start to take a bit of a dip. If all goes as planned, Otton stands to be a major contributor in his rookie season. Otton is coming off of ankle surgery, but he could be one of the hidden gems in the 2022 NFL Draft when we look back on it in three to four years.

Not truly knowing what you have can be scary, and for the Bucs there is plenty of uncertainty. Outside of Brate there are zero known commodities at the tight end position, but that doesn’t mean that the unit will be subpar.

By bringing in so much young talent at the position, General Manager Jason Licht is hurling multiple darts at the dart board, hoping he hits a bullseye with at least one throw. The offseason is still young with training camp beginning in one month, giving Licht enough time to evaluate free agent options.

I’m not ruling out a Gronk return, either. The 33-year-old is already in the conversation for the best tight end of all time, but his body is much older than his age might lead you to believe.

By retiring, Gronk is essentially putting his phone on Do Not Disturb for the next few months. Playing an entire 17-game schedule would be a lot to ask out of Gronkowski, who I anticipate will return after the halfway point in the season.

Bucs fans should not worry about a perceived hole at tight end. Brate will produce in an expanded role and Otton provides a lot of promise. Plus, Gronk should be back in uniform for the playoff push. Even if none of that is enough to reassure the fanbase, it is important to remember that Brady has spent the majority of his 22-year career making everyone around him better.

Featured image via Jim Dedmon – USA TODAY Sports