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Rob Gronkowski Says He'll Return to Bucs on One Condition

Rob Gronkowski said there's one thing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can do to speed up his decision to return -- sign one of his favorite longtime teammates.

The legendary tight end told Sports Illustrated that if the Bucs can coax former New England Patriots teammate Julian Edelman out of retirement -- in a similar fashion to his own signing in 2020 -- he'd come back "for a whole 'nother year."

"Oh yeah, if Julian signs with the Bucs right now, I'm coming back for a whole 'nother year," Gronkowski said. "Hands down. I was just with him last night. He needs to sign with the Bucs."

Edelman was Gronkowski's teammate for the entirety of his tenure with the Patriots from 2010-18, with the Patriots drafting Edelman in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft and Gronkowski in the second round one year later.

The former wide receiver has linked to the Buccaneers throughout his retirement, with longtime former teammate Tom Brady having already coaxed Gronkowski out of retirement to rejoin him in Tampa Bay shortly after signing with the team.

Last month, Edelman tweeted "Onto the next chapter," jokingly claiming he'd signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, along with a graphic very accurately parodying one used by the NFL to announce free agency signings on April Fools' Day.

Of course, the New England Patriots legend included a small "*April fools" in the bottom right corner of the graphic, acknowledging the joke.

Last season, Edelman told Peyton and Eli Manning on the ManningCast that Brady not only attempted to recruit him to the Buccaneers but also wasted little time after making his own decision to leave the Patriots in 2020.

“He hit me up the first day he signed there,” Edelman said during the Monday Night Football live broadcast on November 23, which saw Brady's Bucs defeat the New York Giants, 30-10. “He was like, ‘You want to come down?’ And I was like, ‘Uh, absolutely not.’”

Edelman remained with the Patriots for one final season after Brady and Gronkowski's departures before retiring the following offseason.

Brady threw to Edelman more than any Patriots player during his 20-year career in New England, with the former Kent State standout recording 689 receptions on 1,036 targets, as well as 7,674 yards, 41 touchdowns, and 395 first downs, according to NBC Sports.

Together, Brady, Edelman, and Gronkowski won three Super Bowls during nine seasons together in New England, while the duo of Brady and Gronkowski added a fourth during their first season with the Buccaneers in 2020.

Brady recently agreed to restructure his contract with the Bucs, which freed an additional $9 million in cap space amid Gronkowski and Ndamukong Suh's ongoing free agency.

Prior to Brady's new deal, Gronkowski -- who has been teammates with the 23-year veteran during all 11 of his previous NFL seasons -- said he'll begin contract negotiations once he decides whether he'll continue his playing career.

“That will start if I decide that I want to play,” Gronkowski told Emery in an interview before his appearance at the Nickelodeon “Kids’ Choice Awards” on April 9 via Sports Illustrated. “There’s no reason to do that while there’s a decision to be made first. It’s all about if I decide to.”

Gronkowski, 32, had previously retired in 2019 following his last Super Bowl victory as a member of the New England Patriots, before coming out of retirement the following offseason and rejoining Brady -- his teammate for his entire career -- after being traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers days later.

In February, Gronkowski said he'd retire if pressured to decide on his NFL future immediately at the time, which happened to be before Brady officially announced his retirement and his eventual unretirement weeks later.

"If they're like, 'Rob, you've got to decide right now, right this second if you're playing next year,' I would say 'no' right now, it's two days after the season. I would be like, 'No, I'm not playing,'"" Gronkowski said during an appearance on TMZ Sports on January 25. "It's way too soon, but like, you've got to give it some time, you've got to rest. I would say to see how everything goes, how everything plays out, how I feel. I just want to heal completely, see where my thoughts are from there, then.

"I would say, really, you really start thinking of what you're really going to do in about three, four, five weeks from now, especially in my situation."

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