Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were a seminal duo in the NFL, one of the most prolific passer-receiver combos in league history. Her 90 passing touchdowns are second all-time in the regular season.
But Brady will be without Gronkowski for the first time since 2019, when Gronk missed a season after retiring. Gronkowski retired (again) this offseason, leaving the Buccaneers with a depth problem at the end. They responded by signing veteran pro bowler Kyle Rudolph, who will join Cameron Brate as No. 1 in the tight end room.
Rudolph, who spent last year with the Giants after spending the first 10 seasons of his career with the Vikings, is a good blocker and an average receiver. He and Brate are very similar in size, although Rudolph is slightly heavier.
Ultimately, none of Gronkowski’s 89 goals from last season will likely go it alone, but they’ll likely complete about 130 goals in total.
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Buccaneers’ TE depth chart
Rudolph and Brate are the only two veteran tight ends on the Bucs roster, and they’ll see the field the most often. Tampa Bay recently added training camp warrior Bug Howard, who played for the Philadelphia Stars in the USFL. But he’s likely a stock body, challenging rookies Cade Otton (round four) and Ko Kieft (round six).
So the Bucs are in a strange position. They obviously wanted to invest in the position without overspending, and Rudolph was added post-draft, likely after hopes of Gronkowski returning had faded.
Buccaneers TE depth map
The question, of course, is: are the Bucs in trouble at the position? Brate and Rudolph both had high-volume goal seasons, but they might struggle to match the 146 goals that Gronkowski and Brate combined last season.
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What does this mean for the Buccaneers’ passing game?
In all honesty, the passing game shouldn’t suffer with Brady handing goals to wide receivers Mike Evans, Russell Gage and possibly Chris Godwin early in the season (Godwin is training but is still recovering from a cruciate ligament rupture he suffered late last season Has). .
Ultimately, it may mean we don’t see many two-tight end sets from the Buccaneers. They used 12 staffers (one running back, two tight ends) about 22 percent of the time last season, so they were able to leave that grouping fine in most situations.
Should Rudolph or Brate be coveted in fantasy?
Tight end is usually a great position for easy touchdowns in the fantasy red zone. Illustrators should be attracted to Brate before Rudolph.
Rudolph had just one touchdown last season on a Giants team that had no goals (and generally more anemic offense), while Brate caught four touchdown passes despite goals recorded by Gronkowski.
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Brate could have the lion’s share of goals this year, despite Rudolph’s superior size. Brady has also been collaborating more with Brate, which is very valuable.
While neither should be appreciated this season, Brate should be worth taking on an airman.
What about the beginners?
The Buccaneers spent fourth- and sixth-round picks with tight ends this year, but Otton picked up an ankle injury and Kieft was drafted for his blocking.
Neither is likely to get much work in the passing game this season and Otton in particular could struggle to see the field.
The Buccaneers picked Rudolph because they had a need at the position. You will no doubt expect him to fill it.
This portion of the Buccaneers’ depth chart doesn’t really project any breakout candidates. Brate is most likely to have a larger impact, but it’s likely tempered by the depth of the broad reception corps. Even with Tom Brady at the helm, there are only a limited number of goals.