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Patriots trade TE Rob Gronkowski to Buccaneers

Tom Brady is in a new home, and a familiar face is joining him for a play date.

Rob Gronkowski is coming out of retirement to again play in the NFL, but he'll be doing so in Tampa. The New England Patriots have traded Gronkowski and a seventh-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The Buccaneers later confirmed the transaction.

The 30-year-old Gronkowski recently informed the New England Patriots he was interested in playing football again, and wanted to do so with Brady and the Buccaneers, Rapoport reported. Less than an hour after the news became public, the trade was agreed upon.

Gronkowski will honor his current contract, Rapoport added, per the tight end's agent Drew Rosenhaus, meaning he will play 2020 on a one-year deal worth $10 million. Rapoport added that Gronkowski has already taken his physical, so the trade should go through.

"Rob Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in NFL history and he plays the game with the type of passion and desire that sets him apart," said Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, via the team website. "Rob has played his entire career alongside Tom Brady and their accomplishments speak for themselves. Together they have developed the type of chemistry on and off the field that is crucial to success. Rob combines elite-level skills as both a receiver and blocker but what really makes him special is the fact that he's a proven winner who brings that championship mindset and work ethic."

Such a swap isn't unprecedented. Running back Marshawn Lynch once did something similar, telling the Seahawks he'd like to again play but only for his hometown Raiders, who were still in Oakland at the time.

That trade saw the Seahawks get a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft in exchange for sending the Raiders a sixth-round pick and Lynch's rights. New England is instead netting a fourth-rounder for Gronkowski, who walked away from football after winning his third Super Bowl at the end of the 2018 season.  

Now, Gronkowski is set to join a Buccaneers roster that currently has tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Whether that remains could be sorted out as the upcoming draft plays out beginning Thursday. Wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are also on board for Brady, making the Bucs offense hugely appealing on paper.

Gronkowski's last great play came in Super Bowl LIII, when he caught a pass to set up the game-clinching TD in a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. He retired following the season and spent much of the last year promoting various companies, including World Wrestling Entertainment (where he won the 24/7 title after pinning friend Mojo Rawley during Wrestlemania 36), and a cannabis business. The new collective bargaining agreement eliminated suspensions for drug tests that turn up positive for marijuana.

Gronkowski has been putting on weight to return to football, Rapoport reported, per sources informed of the situation.

Gronkowski compiled a Hall of Fame career in nine seasons, catching 521 passes for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns. His best seasons came in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2017, in which he exceeded 1,000 yards receiving in each campaign and made four Pro Bowls (he also earned the honor in 2012) as he served as Brady's top weapon.

Without Gronkowski, New England's offense trudged through the second half of the 2019 season, coming to a rare early finish in a wild-card loss to Tennessee.

The two will soon reunite in new city. We'll see whether that produces a fourth title shared between them.

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