The Buccaneers apparently have taken “I’m done playing, and I mean it” for an answer.
Veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph has signed a one-year deal with the Buccaneers, according to ESPN.
Rudolph, who spent 10 years with the Vikings before a one-year stint with the Giants, becomes the veteran replacement for Rob Gronkowski, who has repeatedly said his career is over — even if those close to him (including his agent and girlfriend) don’t buy it.
A two-time Pro Bowler and a captain of a 2017 Minnesota team that came within a game of the Super Bowl, Rudolph has 479 career regular-season catches for 4,475 yards and 49 touchdowns. His most productive year came in 2016, with 83 catches for 840 yards. In his lone season in New York, Rudolph had 26 receptions for 257 yards and a touchdown.
Veteran Cameron Brate is the expected starter, but Rudolph should get plenty of opportunities, especially with Gronk not coming back.
Rudolph, 32, entered the league in 2011, one year after Gronkowski. The terms of the deal, which have not yet been leaked, will go a long way toward determining whether Rudolph is a lock for the 53-man roster, or whether he’ll have to earn a job in August.
Regardless, the move should be regarded as further proof that Gronkowski won’t be back in Tampa in 2022. Whether he joins forces with Brady if/when Brady plays for another team in 2023 remains to be seen.