Retired NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski doesn't believe his longtime former teammate Tom Brady will return to the New England Patriots this offseason.
Gronkowski, who spent his entire NFL career with Brady as a member of both the Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, addressed media speculation that the seven-time Super Bowl champion was considering rejoining his team of 20 seasons during an appearance on the New Heights with Jason and Travis Kelce podcast this week.
"I would 100% be surprised if he went back to New England, no doubt," Gronkowski said. "It would be nuts, I mean, that would be a crazy story, but I just don't really see that happening.
"But you never know. I'm not Tom, I'm just putting my analyzing skills out there and I think that'd be a tough shot for him to go back to New England.
"But it's open, it's open though," Gronkowski added with a smile. "But a tough shot. Like shooting out of the woods in a golf game and hitting it. That's a tough shot but it's possible."
Brady faced questions about his NFL future after his team's 31-14 playoff elimination loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday (January 16) night as he's set to become a free agent this offseason should he continue his playing career for a 24th season, following a 2022 campaign in which the Buccaneers offense struggled to meet high expectations.
"Not the way we wanted to end it, but we didn't deserve it," Brady said via ESPN. "I give them a lot of credit. They played a good game. Made a lot more plays than we did, so a tough night.
"I think there's a part of football where I feel like it's -- sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time, the team that earns it wins, and they played [well] all year."
In November, the Athletic's Jeff Howe (subscription needed) wrote that Brady could return to the Patriots, suggesting that reports of the quarterback and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's relationship being strained are exaggerated and that the franchise will have more than $100 million in cap space ahead of Brady's upcoming free agency.
Howe also suggested that the Patriots could trade former No. 15 overall pick Mac Jones while he has high trade value or keep him as a long-term option learning behind the NFL's all-time leading passer.
"Maybe it's a long shot," Howe wrote. "There might be better situations for Brady. But just when you think you've got Belichick figured out, he does something no one sees coming."
Brady has a "no tag" clause in his contract, which means he cannot be franchise tagged by the Buccaneers and will become an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason should he chose not to re-sign.
The San Mateo native also has a massive contract to become FOX Sports' lead NFL analyst once his playing career concludes.
"I'm gonna go home and get a good night's sleep -- as good as I can tonight," Brady said, adding that he didn't have a set timetable for his decision. "This has been all I've focused on -- this game. It'll just be one day at a time. Truly."
Brady finished Monday's game with 351 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 35 of 66 passing.
The seven-time Super Bowl champion signed with the Buccaneers during the 2020 offseason following 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.
Tampa Bay defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in Super Bowl LV during Brady's first season with the franchise.
Brady announced his retirement, then un-retirement this offseason ahead of his 23rd NFL season.
The 45-year-old is the NFL's all-time passing leader for yards and touchdowns, as well as quarterback wins, among numerous other records.