Rob Gronkowski confirmed he held talks with rival teams in free agency before committing to Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for another year.

Five-time Pro Bowler Gronkowski returned to the NFL last season, a year on from his retirement with the New England Patriots.

The tight end was traded to the Bucs, where he joined fellow Pats great Tom Brady for a successful title challenge.

According to reports, Gronkowski agreed to return to Tampa on the same terms as in 2020, signing a one-year, $10million pact.

But the four-time champion had earlier told The Ringer he wanted "just to see what's out there" in free agency.

As his new deal was formally announced on Monday, Gronkowski met the media and was asked about speculation he discussed a potential move to the Buffalo Bills.

"There was a little extent to that," said Gronkowski, who started all 20 regular season and playoff games last year and was targeted 91 times for 53 catches, 733 yards and nine touchdowns.

"I was a free agent, so as a free agent, you're allowed to talk to other teams. There were a couple of other teams, also.

"But just overall I wanted to be back with the Buccaneers organisation. Just the set-up here is just unbelievable. Just the chemistry that I've built over the last season is just fantastic.

"So just overall I wanted to come back to the Buccaneers.

"You know, it's football, you never know how things are going to play out. So it's just good to listen to what else is out there, and there was something to a little extent.

"I knew I wanted to be here."

The Bills were 13-3 last season, two wins better off than the Bucs, but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

The Chiefs were subsequently blown away by Tampa, as Gronkowski scored two touchdowns in a dominant 31-9 win.

Of his 14 postseason scores - all of which have come from Brady passes, a playoff record - five have now come in Super Bowls.

Bucs GM Jason Licht said in a statement on Monday: "In addition to his contributions on the field, Gronk has quickly become one of the most beloved guys in our locker room.

"His ability to perform at a championship-calibre level week after week, while also uplifting everyone around him, makes him an invaluable presence in our building.

"Rob's accomplishments speak for themselves and make him one of the greatest to ever play the game at his position.

"We are thrilled to have him back with us as we pursue another title in Tampa."

Tampa have worked hard to reassemble their successful 2020 team.

Brady signed an extension, keeping him with the Bucs through 2022, while Chris Godwin was franchise-tagged and Lavonte David signed a new deal ahead of free agency.

Once the negotiating period began, Shaquil Barrett and Gronkowski also came back.

Rob Gronkowski will head back to Tampa Bay in 2021 as NFL champions the Buccaneers continue to reassemble their Super Bowl-winning team.

Five-time Pro Bowler Gronkowski returned to the NFL last season, a year on from his retirement with the New England Patriots.

The tight end was traded to the Bucs, joining fellow Pats great Tom Brady for a title challenge.

As so often in their time together in New England, the season ended in spectacular fashion for Gronkowski and Brady as they won the Super Bowl in their new home stadium in Tampa.

Gronkowski had been playing on a one-year, $10million contract, though, making him a free agent this offseason.

Monday saw negotiations start between teams and potential signings, and Gronkowski told The Ringer: "You just never know what may happen."

The four-time champion added he wanted "just to see what's out there".

But the 31-year-old did not take long to make his decision as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Drew Rosenhaus, the player's agent, confirmed his return to the Bucs.

Gronkowski will play under the same terms again, signing for another season for $10m.

The former Patriot started all 16 regular-season games in 2020, although he was targeted only 77 times. He had 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns.

Gronkowski saved his best display for Super Bowl LV, however, with six receptions for 67 yards and two TDs in the dominant 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Of his 14 postseason scores – all of which have come from Brady passes, a playoff record – five have now come in Super Bowls.

The Bucs will hope to return to the big game next year after bringing back Gronkowski, along with fellow free agent Shaq Barrett, another key performer in the defeat of the Chiefs.

Brady last week extended his contract through 2022, meanwhile, as Tampa put the franchise tag on Chris Godwin.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are Super Bowl champions. So job done for Tom Brady and company, right?

Wrong.

In the aftermath of their crushing 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, Brady was already speaking on the podium about running it back for another year.

And, having added a seventh Lombardi Trophy to his impressive collection, it's impossible to question the 43-year-old's confidence in pushing for number eight.

However, the reality is that, regardless of how dominant their playoff campaign was, the Bucs have significant issues to resolve if they are to emerge triumphant again next February.

Here we reflect on the season that delivered the Buccaneers' second Super Bowl title and examine the offseason challenges that will be critical to their hopes of successfully defending their crown. 

Offense

Though Brady's first season in Bruce Arians' offense was not without its growing pains, things eventually clicked for the Bucs through the air.

Brady was third in passing yards per game (289.6), behind only Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

Over the last four weeks of the regular season, however, Brady led the league in pass yards per game, racking up 333.3 as they surged into the postseason.

The move from New England to Tampa Bay also revived Brady's fortunes as a deep-ball thrower. Tampa had 67 completions of 20 yards or more, the third-most in the NFL behind the Houston Texans and the Chiefs.

Where they will hope to improve next year is in the explosiveness of the running game.

Leonard Fournette was the top running back in the postseason, rushing for 300 yards and three touchdowns, including one in the Super Bowl. 

He had five rushes of 10 yards or more in the playoffs but, in the regular season, it was a different story.

The Bucs ranked 29th in the NFL with an average of 94.9 yards per game, while their 34 runs of 10 yards or more were tied for second-last in the NFL.

If Tampa can improve in that regard in 2021, it will take a lot of the pressure off Brady's shoulders.

Defense

Brady may have won Super Bowl MVP for the fifth time, but it was the Bucs' defense that ensured the Chiefs had no way of coming back into the contest.

They pressured Mahomes 33 times in an effort that derailed the Chiefs' offensive game plan, with that performance reflective of the dominance the Bucs' defensive front produced throughout the season.

Indeed, Tampa Bay registered 48 sacks in the regular season, with the 366 negative yards those sacks produced second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers (-384).

Given the pressure they consistently generated, it is no surprise that the Bucs produced the fourth-most takeaways in the NFL (25).

A talented young secondary capitalised significantly on the disruption the front seven created, vindicating investment in the defensive backfield that had previously been questioned.

Safety Antoine Winfield enjoyed a stellar rookie year but the star of the show in the secondary was cornerback Carlton Davis, who had four interceptions and 18 pass breakups.

As a result of their ability to create pressure and turnovers, the Bucs ranked eighth in pass yards per play allowed (5.93).

The rush defense was even stronger, Tampa Bay leading the league as they gave up just 3.6 yards per run play.

Excelling at shutting teams down through the air and on the ground, the Bucs were sixth in opponent scoring efficiency and 10th in successful plays allowed.

Todd Bowles' defense was critical to the Bucs emerging from the 2020 season with the Lombardi in their possession, but difficult decisions loom as they attempt to keep the group together for another run in 2021.

The offseason

In a year where the salary cap could fall from $198million to, at the most optimistic estimate, $185m, the Bucs find themselves in a better position than most teams.

Assuming a $185m cap, the Bucs have nearly $28m to spend, yet the sheer number of free agents they have means Tampa will likely be bidding farewell to some key names from their championship team.

Shaquil Barrett, the edge rusher who had 13 pressures of Mahomes, is an unrestricted free agent in line for a monster payday. Veteran linebacker Lavonte David is also set to hit the open market, along with wide receivers Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Fournette.

Gronkowski has already vowed to return and, given that the Bucs triumphed over the Chiefs with Godwin making just two catches, Tampa may be willing to say goodbye to the former third-round pick to facilitate them paying others.

Barrett and David figure to be the toughest players to re-sign, with the former likely to command something at least in the region of Joey Bosa's market-setting contract for edge rushers, which has an average annual value of $27m.

David may be willing to take a discount after nine seasons with Tampa, but the Bucs might have to face up to the possibility of throwing rookies into the mix on the edge and at linebacker, meaning there could be more pressure on that talented defensive backfield to deliver without the same level of play in the front seven.

Having won it all, the Bucs are effectively playing with house money - at least to those outside the building - and have several options with the 32nd overall pick in the draft.

But edge, linebacker and wide receiver all stand as potential areas of focus for a champion team that may have to revise their expectations of keeping the core of the band together.

Having come out of retirement to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win Super Bowl LV, Rob Gronkowski has no intention of hanging up the cleats again.

The Buccaneers sparingly used Gronkowski in the passing game for much of the 2020 season but he played a starring role on Sunday as Tampa Bay crushed the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9.

The tight end caught six passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns, the connection between him and Tom Brady, which helped fuel the second half of the New England Patriots dynasty, again having a huge impact on the grandest stage.

"I don't see why I wouldn't be back," Gronkowski said of returning to the Bucs after winning his fourth Super Bowl.

"I did have a ball this year. It was just a great atmosphere and I loved being here. It was just an amazing year to be here with so many great players.

"There was no one that was selfish this year, and that's what made this team special and that's why we got this far. That's why we're champions; we worked together as a team.

"I retired from being retired, which is pretty cool. Coming down here to this journey, I saw that it was a great opportunity. I love Florida. A great opportunity to be in great weather, go to work in T-shirts and sandals — that's my style."

Gronkowski clearly adapted excellently to Florida, and he once again proved his ability to adjust to different roles in his first season with Tampa Bay.

He was targeted just 77 times in the regular season - the lowest amount in a campaign in which he played at least 14 games since his rookie year in 2010 - with the Bucs seemingly relying on him more as a blocking tight end.

But he became an integral part of the passing game in the playoffs.

He and David Njoku of the Cleveland Browns were the only tight ends to have two plays of 25 yards or more in the postseason.

Seventy-five percent of Gronkowski's eight receptions went for a first down, the most of any tight end in the playoffs, while his 13.8 yards per reception average was the best of any tight end to have played multiple postseason games this year.

"What a journey it’s been, what a story it has been," Gronkowski added. "What a start and what a finish. It was the real deal."

Gronkowski may not be used to the same extent he was during his Patriots heyday, but he emphatically proved that he can still be a big-play threat in the passing game when needed. As long as he can serve that purpose and add value as a blocker, there is no reason for him not to continue the journey.

Tom Brady made more history, the most successful player in NFL history claiming a seventh Super Bowl crown after sensationally leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers past the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV.

In a blockbuster showdown pitting 43-year-old great Brady against reigning Super Bowl MVP Mahomes – the face of NFL's new generation – it was the veteran quarterback who came out on top in a masterclass on Sunday.

Brady – already the record-holder with six previous Super Bowl victories – threw three touchdown passes, including two to trusted team-mate Rob Gronkowski, after completing 21 of 29 throws for 201 yards and no interceptions as the Buccaneers claimed their first Lombardi Trophy since the 2002 campaign.

With the memorable victory in his first season with the Buccaneers, Brady joined MLB first baseman Johnny Mize (1950s New York Yankees) and NHL goaltender Johnny Bower (1960s Toronto Maple Leafs) as the only players to win four championships aged 37 or older. 

Brady also followed in the footsteps of Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history to win Super Bowls with two different teams.

It was a night to forget for Mahomes and the Chiefs after the Kansas City signal-caller finished 26-of-49 passing for 270 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and three sacks, Tampa Bay's defense stifling Andy Reid's men.

There were plenty of storylines in Tampa – Brady featuring in his fifth Super Bowl since turning 37, tying the most appearances in a championship game/series by any player in any major North American sport, alongside NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and MLB great Roger Clemens, while he is only one of three athletes in North American sport to make three championship appearances aged 40 or older.

Led by Mahomes, the Chiefs were looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since Brady and the New England Patriots in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Sarah Thomas also made history as the NFL's first female Super Bowl official at Raymond James Stadium, where the Buccaneers became the first home team to stage a showpiece and Brady overcame an early sack in the first quarter.

Mahomes came close to throwing a touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill, instead a field goal getting the Chiefs on the board before Brady and the Buccaneers took control.

Brady led an impressive eight-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a TD pass to a familiar face – Gronkowski – with 37 seconds remaining in the opening quarter as the pair surpassed Joe Montana and Jerry Rice (12) for the most touchdowns by any quarterback-receiver combo in postseason history with their 13th.

It also marked the first time in 10 Super Bowl appearances that Brady's team scored a touchdown in the opening period.

Brady and the Buccaneers – leading 7-3 after one quarter – were purring against a defensively poor Chiefs – the veteran QB thought he had another touchdown pass, but a desperate Anthony Hitchens made a TD-saving play on Joe Haeg in the endzone early in the second period.

Kansas City's defense came up big to thwart the red-hot Buccaneers, stopping Tampa Bay just short of the endzone on fourth down, but Mahomes lacked support offensively as Travis Kelce also dropped a catch.

As the penalties piled up for the Chiefs, the Buccaneers capitalised – Brady delivering a laser pass to Gronkowski in the endzone before Antonio Brown benefited from another throw to extend Tampa Bay's lead to 21-6 on the stroke of half-time.

Shell-shocked, the Chiefs needed a response in the second half but they did not get it to begin the third quarter after they were exposed defensively again – Leonard Fournette's defensive-splitting 27-yard run making it 28-9 in favour of the hosts.

After four successful extra-point conversions, Ryan Succop nailed a 52-yard field goal to move the Buccaneers further clear late in the third quarter as Mahomes' Chiefs tried unsuccessfully to rally to victory.

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski broke an NFL postseason record to give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a lead over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Brady's eight-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski in the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday saw the duo make history.

They surpassed Joe Montana and Jerry Rice (12) for the most TDs by any quarterback-receiver combo in postseason history with their 13th.

It also marked the first time in 10 Super Bowl appearances that Brady's team have scored a TD in the first quarter.

The Buccaneers held a 7-3 lead after the opening quarter.

History is up for grabs on Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

A mouth-watering clash will see Tom Brady, at the age of 43, seek his seventh Super Bowl title in his first season with the Bucs.

If he succeeds, Bruce Arians' team will become the first ever to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy at their own stadium.

The opposition could not be any tougher, though, as Brady's heir apparent Patrick Mahomes seeks a second straight Super Bowl title with the free-scoring Chiefs.

REGULAR SEASON REMATCH

These two teams have already played this season, with the Chiefs winning 27-24 in Tampa Bay on November 29.

The Week 12 victory was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests, with the defending champions 17 points clear going into the fourth quarter.

However, Stats Perform data shows that history may side with the Bucs in this scenario.

There have been 13 previous Super Bowls between teams that met in the regular season, and the winner of the first matchup is just 6-7 in the rematch.

Mahomes lit up the regular season game, going 37-for-49 for 462 yards (fourth-most in franchise history), adding three touchdowns and zero interceptions. 

He became the first player in NFL history to complete at least 75 per cent of his passes for at least 450 yards and zero interceptions in a road game.

That win means Chiefs coach Andy Reid, dating back to the 2010 Philadelphia Eagles, has won nine straight games played in the state of Florida across the regular season and postseason.

It is the longest such streak all-time by a head coach of a non-Florida team. 

Stakes could not be higher for the rematch, which is also only the second playoff game all-time between starting quarterbacks of the previous two Super Bowl winners.

Brady triumphed in 2018, his penultimate season with the New England Patriots, while Mahomes was Super Bowl MVP last year as the Chiefs fought back to beat the San Francisco 49ers.

The only previous playoff meeting between the prior two Super Bowl winners was the 1983 NFC Championship Game between San Francisco's Joe Montana and Washington's Joe Theismann.

Washington held off a late Montana comeback attempt to win but could not go on to finish the job in the Super Bowl.

BUCS IN RARE COMPANY

Higher seeds have excelled in the playoffs over recent NFL seasons, though this year the Bucs (seeded five) have surged despite being on the road since Wild Card weekend.

Tampa Bay are the fifth team all-time to win three road games in a single postseason, joining the 1985 Patriots, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2007 New York Giants and 2010 Green Bay Packers. 

The most recent three all won in the Super Bowl in a positive omen for the Bucs, with Brady famously falling to the Giants to conclude that 2007 season after going 16-0 in the regular season.

Aged 68 years and 127 days, Bruce Arians will be the second-oldest head coach in Super Bowl history, behind only the Buffalo Bills' Marv Levy (68 years and 180 days).

Arians has the chance to become the oldest head coach to win a Super Bowl, with Bill Belichick (66 years and 293 days) the current record holder after he and Brady saw off the Los Angeles Rams with the Pats two years ago.

The Bucs are the 11th team all-time to score at least 30 points three times in a single postseason. Nine of the previous 10 won the Super Bowl; the only team that did not were the 2008 Arizona Cardinals. 

No team has ever scored at least 30 points four times in a single postseason, but Arians and Brady likely need to do so if they are to prevail, due to the Chiefs' firepower.

MAHOMES IS COMEBACK KING

Mahomes has done wonders for Reid's legacy – the head coach now has seven playoff wins with the Chiefs (7-5), one shy of the combined total of all other coaches in franchise history (8-14).

If the Bucs take an early lead, they will know they must keep their foot on the gas.

Kansas City trailed the Bills 9-0 in the AFC Championship Game before rallying to win 38-24. 

It was the fourth time Mahomes has rallied from a two-score deficit to win a playoff game by two or more scores. No other QB in NFL playoff history has done so more than once.

Indeed, Mahomes has won 25 of his past 26 starts (including postseason), only the third QB to ever go on such a run (after Jim McMahon and Brady).

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce comes into the game in form. He has eight TD catches in his past six playoff games - only Jerry Rice (11) and Larry Fitzgerald (nine) have more in a six-game postseason span.

The Bucs, meanwhile, have been spreading the ball around - six different players have caught a TD this postseason, one shy of the most by any team in a single postseason all-time (1999 Rams). 

None of those six are Rob Gronkowski. But the tight end will still need to be watched closely – his 12 career postseason TD catches are tied with John Stallworth for second all-time behind Rice's 22.

Tom Brady believes "everybody in their next life wishes they can come back as Rob Gronkowski" as the superstar duo aim to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to glory at Super Bowl LV.  

Legendary quarterback Brady and tight end Gronkowski forged a strong bond as part of the dynasty that dominated the NFL for so long at the New England Patriots. 

Gronkowski retired after the 2018 season but, after just one campaign out of the game, the lure of playing alongside his long-time friend in Tampa proved too strong to resist. 

Now Gronkowski has the chance of a fourth Super Bowl ring, while Brady is attempting to win a seventh. 

Speaking at a news conference previewing Sunday's showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs, Brady was asked by Gronkowski's girlfriend, Camille Kostek, for an inside track on what it is like playing together. 

"You know what he's super excited because he feels so good, he's played 20 games this year so it's the most I think he's ever played his career," Brady said.  

"He's one of the most unique people, as you know, just being around him. He's so positive I think everybody wishes in their next life they can come back as Rob just because he's got such a great personality about him, just his way of being positive and he's a real high achiever.  

"He's very competitive, and I see the competitive nature, the determination like, when you're down and out, you want him with you. And I think that speaks to him as a team-mate and as a person. And I love playing with him.  

"You know I've known him for a long time, and I'm just so proud of all his accomplishments. He's an amazing guy. And I know, for both of us, we rely on each other a lot for different things. And I'll be looking for him this Sunday so that's the most important thing."

At the age of 43, Brady is about as experienced as it gets when it comes to preparing for the Super Bowl. 

But he is under no illusions as to the size of the task the Buccaneers face against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on Sunday. 

"It's a slow build I think for this game because it's two weeks of prep," he added.  

"You feel out the physical stuff. You're pretty much done at this point. And at this point it's just going through in your head, different situations, scenarios, all your different calls that you'd have, just trying to think about how they're going to play us.  

"And then, again, I think that's where the mental prep, you really can't leave any stone unturned at this point. Friday, Saturday, Sunday just over three days left in the season. So, 72 hours.  

"And, you know, you got to use it all and use it to the maximum, because this is a game that's really going to challenge us as a team, it's a very tough team to beat. They haven't been beaten in a long time.  

"They've got a great offense, got a great defense, really well coached. We have to be in a good place out there and compete and get ready for a great game. So, it's a long game, it's a hard game, it's a long day. But you got to be ready when the ball's kicked off and we're going to be challenged. They're going to challenge us and we are going to answer the challenge."

Rob Gronkowski confirmed he wanted to return for another season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The tight end came out of retirement to join former New England Patriots team-mate Tom Brady at the Buccaneers ahead of this NFL season, signing a one-year deal.

Gronkowski, 31, started every regular-season game for just the second time in his career, and the Buccaneers are preparing for the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

The three-time Super Bowl winner said he was keen to return for another campaign with Tampa Bay.

Asked if he wanted to return to the Buccaneers next season, Gronkowski told a news conference: "Oh yes, definitely, I don't see why not.

"Obviously there's logistical things, I'm on a one-year deal and my main focus obviously is the season, going to Green Bay.

"But if I had that question now, I don't see why I wouldn't be coming back for the 2021 season."

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians praised Gronkowski's performances, although he was unwilling to discuss the five-time Pro Bowl's future.

"It's a long way away from talking about all that kind of stuff," he said.

"But he's playing extremely well for us and I don't see any drop off."

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