May 20, 2024

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will miss Rob Gronkowski at tight end as they eye a second Super Bowl title in three years. Gronkowski was a key piece in the Buccaneers’ first championship run, but so was Cameron Brate — who emerges as the No. 1 tight end in the offense.

Recently retired Bruce Arians doesn’t think they’ll be a significant drop off with Brate, who has been productive in his eight NFL seasons. 

“It’s a step back, that’s for sure — because he’s a Hall of Fame player,” Arians said, via “But I really like the room right now. I love the young kids we’ve got in there and Cam Brate’s a good veteran player that Tom really trusts. 

“Now, he’s not Gronk. That size and what he brings as a blocker and receiver I think is unmatched. You don’t replace that guy, but we also have Codey McElroy … I think it’s time for him to break out as a receiver.”


Brate has caught 253 passes for 2,683 yards and 33 touchdowns in his career, including 30 catches for 245 yards and four touchdowns as a backup tight end to Gronkowski last year. His best season came in 2016, when Brate caught 57 passes for 660 yards and eight touchdowns. 

The Buccaneers are used to having Gronkowski out for a short period of time, as an injury-riddled 2021 season caused Gronkowski to miss five games. He still finished with 55 catches for 802 yards and six touchdown and had nine catches for 116 yards and a touchdown in two postseason games. 

Regardless, it’s hard to replace one of the greatest tight ends of all time. Gronkowski is fifth in NFL history for receiving yards by a tight end (9,286) and third in receiving touchdowns by a tight end (92). His 98 catches for 1,389 yards in the playoffs are the third-most by any player in postseason history, and his 15 receiving touchdowns are the second-most in playoff history. 

Arians also believes McElroy can become a breakout player for the Buccaneers this year. McElroy has played just three games in two years while spending the majority of time on the Buccaneers practice squad, having just one catch for 30 yards. He’ll be in competition with Cade Otton and Ko Kieft for the No. 2 tight end job. 

Meanwhile, Arians doesn’t plan on returning to coaching, as he’s satisfied with how his career turned out. The winningest head coach in Buccaneers history, Arians had a .633 winning percentage (31-18) in his three seasons with the team — including an .833 win percentage in the playoffs (5-1). He finished with an 80-48-1 record (.624 win percentage) in his career with the Arizona Cardinals and Buccaneers. Including his 9-3 record as interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, Arians’ .635 winning percentage (89-51-1) ranks eighth among coaches who have coached at least 100 games in the Super Bowl era.

Is Arians a Hall of Famer? Instead of focusing on that, he’s more satisfied he left coaching on his own terms. 

“I was probably done anyway, so why not do it now,” Arians said. “I know a lot of people think the Hall of Fame is the end-all, be-all and if it happens, that would be the most unbelievable thing to be able to wear a gold jacket. But this meant more to me personally.”

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