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Rob Gronkowski would only play for Buccaneers if he decides to return for another season

With Tom Brady back in, Bruce Arians out and Todd Bowles now at the helm, one of the only lingering questions around Tampa Bay this offseason is will Rob Gronkowski return for another season? And if so, will he do so in pewter and red?

The 32-year-old tight end is a free agent and is taking his time deciding whether to come back to the Buccaneers for a 12th NFL campaign in 2022. He's spent most of that time recently promoting his hosting gig on Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards this weekend and the second iteration of Gronk Beach, a rager set to be held in Las Vegas the weekend of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Gronkowski told SB Nation's Debbie Emery this week that he will make a decision eventually, and if he does opt for another go-around, he'd only return to Brady and the Bucs.

"The Buccaneers situation is just too good if I decide to go back and play," Gronk said. "Like I said, I love all my teammates there. They are all great teammates and all selfless players, they are there for the team and what's best for the team and the whole organization. If I do play football again, it'll be for the Bucs."

Asked whether he intends to make said decision around April 30 immediately following Gronk Beach, the tight end joked "it depends how tipsy I am," but clarified he doesn't have a set timeline.

"I am not going to re-sign then, it actually feels good right now, it feels good to be free -- not having any football over my head, working out when I want to work out," Gronkowski explained. "I love my teammates, I love the Buccaneers' organization, everyone from A to Z, they're all great people and it's a lot of fun to go to work there. Right now, I am just chilling and doing other things like hosting the Kids' Choice Awards show and throwing a Gronk Beach party. Not staying too busy, just having a couple of things a month to focus on then, and doing what I want to do in my free time."

Gronk first retired from football after the 2018 season, his ninth with the New England Patriots, but unretired the following offseason to join Brady and a stacked roster in Tampa Bay. The four-time All-Pro tight end has been a fixture in the Buccaneers' back-to-back postseason runs, including their Super Bowl triumph in 2020. Gronk has recorded 100 catches for 1,425 yards and 13 touchdowns in 28 regular-season games for Tampa Bay the last two seasons, adding 17 receptions for 226 yards and three TDs in six playoff contests.

If Gronk doesn't return and instead chooses to pursue a life in slime, Brady would have veteran Cameron Brate and off-and-on practice-squader Codey McElroy at the tight end position; longtime Bucs TE O.J. Howard already left this offseason for the Buffalo Bills, coincidentally a popular rumored landing spot for Gronkowski.

The most likely scenario in Gronk's self-protracted free agency is that the TE waits until the real action starts -- training camp in late July -- to make a formal decision on whether to return so as to avoid the voluntary and involuntary parts of the offseason program. Organized team activities in Tampa Bay begin May 17, while mandatory minicamp runs from June 7-9.

But hey, it's Gronk's timeline and we're just waiting on it.

"I don't really have a decision date, I don't ever have to decide -- if I don't decide then that just means I'm not playing!" Gronkowski said. "There really is no decision that I have to make in my life, maybe I'll just go the rest of my life without ever deciding. People will be like 'Rob, what did you decide?' when I'm like 70 years old, and I'll say: 'It's still up in the air.'"

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