Which veteran tight ends could the Bucs target to replace Rob Gronkowski?

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Rob Gronkowski is retiring, which means the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are losing an important piece of their offensive attack heading into the 2022 season.

Yes, the Bucs just spent two of their picks in the 2022 NFL draft on tight ends, but that might not stop them from pursuing a veteran free agent at the position who could have a more immediate impact for a team in win-now mode.

While Gronk’s retirement (as well as the loss of O.J. Howard in free agency) should increase the role of veteran incumbent Cameron Brate this season, the Bucs could still be in the market for another experienced player at the position.

If they do go that route, here are some names that could make sense:

Kyle Rudolph

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Rudolph spent the majority of his productive NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings before leaving last offseason to sign with the New York Jets. His production dipped considerably in the past two seasons (just two combined touchdown catches over that stretch), but he’s still got similar size and a well-rounded skill set.

Eric Ebron

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The youngest of the best veterans still available on the open market, Ebron is a former top-10 pick who is just a few years removed from a Pro Bowl season with the Colts. He spent the past two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his 2021 campaign was cut well short due to a knee injury. He may not give the Bucs much as a blocker, but his athleticism could make an impact in the passing game.

Jared Cook

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Bucs fans know Cook well, considering he’s had plenty of success against Tampa Bay over his few seasons spent with the Saints (though they’ll still thank him for that fumble in the playoffs back in 2020). Cook is 35 years old, so who knows how much he still has left in the tank, but he’s still a size mismatch as a pass-catcher in the red zone.

Dalton Schultz

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Schultz is a bit of a wild-card on this list, but worth including. The Cowboys placed the franchise tag on him earlier this offseason, but the two sides have yet to strike a long-term extension. Would the Bucs be willing to trade for an ascending player at the position, even if it would cost a draft pick and a hefty new deal?

Blake Jarwin

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Speaking of the Cowboys, Jarwin spent the past five seasons in Dallas. While he showed promise earlier in his career, he’s missed most of the last two seasons due to multiple injuries. If the Bucs are convinced he can get back to full strength soon, the 27-year-old might be an underrated option who still has his best football ahead of him.

Jimmy Graham

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Another veteran with whom Bucs fans are well acquainted, Graham has had plenty of success against Tampa Bay over the years while playing for multiple NFC opponents. His production fell off considerably last season while with the Bears, but his massive frame and knack for finding the end zone might still be enough to interest the Bucs.

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