Future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski hangs up his cleats for the second time. The four-time Super Bowl champion announced his decision Tuesday after 11 career seasons. “Gronk” is one of the greatest tight ends to ever play. He holds several records such as most career postseason touchdown receptions for a tight end (15) and most 100-yard receiving games in NFL history by a tight end (32) . The four-time First-Time All-Pro is one of the best players of this era and proved it by being selected to the 2010 All-Decade team. He was a cornerstone in New England for nine seasons before teaming up with QB Tom Brady in Tampa Bay for his final two career seasons.
Gronkowski was Tom Brady’s prime target for about half of Brady’s career. Whether in New England or Tampa Bay, the No. 87 has always been a key part of the offense for Tom Brady. Who knows if Brady has seven rings without Gronkowski? So how will Gronkowski’s second retirement affect the entire NFC playoff roster in 2022? There are three teams above the rest in the NFC. The Rams, Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay.
The loss of Gronkowski is significant. That takes away one of Brady’s top targets and also means the future Hall of Fame quarterback will have to rely more on his Pro Bowl receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Tampa’s defense is very strong, especially with new head coach Todd Bowles calling plays. But Tampa has likely lost four important veterans now in Richard Sherman, Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul and Gronkowski. Don’t forget the loss of Bruce Arians. His leadership will be missed. However, Tom Brady, who was somewhat retired this offseason, is still the flagman. Tampa is a Super Bowl contender because No. 12 is back there. But losing Gronkowski does not help the situation. Expect them to still win the NFC South, but they appear to be the third-best team in the conference behind LA and Green Bay.
The Rams, in addition to losing retired Ironman left tackle Andrew Whitworth and receiver Robert Woods in a trade, were able to retain almost every piece of their championship team. Whether Odell Beckham Jr. will return remains to be seen. But signing Pro Bowl receiver Allen Robinson was a great move. The extension of star receiver Cooper Kupp and the restructuring of future Hall of Fame DT Aaron Donald were also key moves. This team has a very good chance of going back to back.
The Packers might be the quietest team in the league with their operation. They draw and develop very well. The loss of All-Pro receiver Davante Adams hurts a lot. But with future Hall of Fame QB Aaron Rodgers leading the team, an underrated offensive offense and a top-10 defense that will be even more elite in 2022, the Packers also have a good chance to play. in Arizona next February.
There are intriguing teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints who could also pose a real threat. But the loss of Gronkowski hurts as Brady loses one of the most important teammates of his long career. The last time Brady was without his star tight end (2019), he was knocked out at home in the wild-card round by the Tennessee Titans. Tampa Bay will have to find that production elsewhere. If they can’t find it, the Super Bowl could be out of reach for them in 2022.