Rob Gronkowski's NFL Career Officially Seems Over, Leaving Behind a Complicated Legacy

Rob Gronkowski at his beach party.
Rob Gronkowski at his beach party. / Jason Koerner/Getty Images

The will-he, won't-he return rumors can stop. Rob Gronkowski's days playing football appear to be officially over after it was announced he is close to signing a deal with the WWE.

Of course, this was the expected outcome by many. Gronk retired from the NFL after the 2018 season. He was beat up (bad back, dislocated elbow, torn ACL/MCL, concussions, etc.) and the reality was at that point he was better suited for life as a caricature of himself than a football player.

Yet, un-retirement rumors followed him throughout last season. He perpetuated some by not dismissing the idea of possibly returning if Tom Brady called and posting cryptic messages on social media about a "big announcement" right before the NFL deadline for players to announce if they are coming out of retirement to play that season. He wound up telling the world he was hosting a beach party at the Super Bowl.

This feels different than last year, however. We now can see where Gronk is heading, where he's focused. Like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and John Cena, it appears Gronk wants to parlay a career in wrestling into a career in Hollywood. He's done some executive producing in that world already and has 13 acting credits on his portfolio. So that's that and we can close the book on his playing days.

While his future seems clear, Gronk's legacy as a player is complicated. Some believe he's the greatest tight end of all time (No. 1 among eligible TE in receiving YPG, Top 10 in most other categories). Others point to his injuries (played only one full season) and lack of consistency (four 1,000-yard seasons in nine years) as drawbacks.

But that's Gronk, isn't it? He was a perfect dichotomy -- dominant enough when he played that you remembered him, injured so often it felt like his career was a bit of a "what if". Regardless of where you stand, when he did play, he was nearly unstoppable (third all-time in TDs by a TE despite playing in less than half as many games as the two players ahead of him).

Gronk will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot when he's up in 2023. By then, who knows how many people he will have body-slammed or how many movies and TV shows he will have appeared in. But the debate about his playing career will rage on and the man who transcended the Patriots dynasty to become a standalone brand will remain one of the most talked-about athletes in our lifetime.