Rob Gronkowski is going out on top.

After nine seasons in the NFL, the New England Patriots tight end announced his retirement yesterday on Instagram.

Gronk wrote:

“It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010. My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine. Thank you to all of Pats Nation around the world for the incredible support since I have been apart of this 1st class organization. Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be. But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life. It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success. To all my current and past teammates, thank you for making each team every year special to be apart of. I will truly miss you guys. Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of whats next.”

Since joining the Patriots as a second-round pick in 2010, Gronk has led the NFL in touchdown receptions with 79. In five of those seasons, he had 10 or more touchdowns, the most by a tight end in NFL history.

Gronk’s brief career and recurring injuries resulted in him only playing in 115 regular-season games. In those games, he totaled 521 receptions for 7,861 yeards. In his 16 career playoff games, he tallied 81 receptions for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns.

In 2011, Gronk set the NFL single-season records for touchdowns (18) and receiving yards (1,327) by a tight end. He is the only tight end in NFL history with three seasons of 1,000 yards receiving and 10-plus touchdowns.

His 80 touchdowns (79 receiving, 1 rushing) are the most in Patriots franchise history. Only Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers have connected for more touchdowns between a tight end and a quarterback in NFL history than Gronk’s 78 with Brady.

He caught his 50th touchdown reception in just 59 games, 33 games quicker than the next fastest tight end.

The 29-year-old tight end was rumored to be considering retirement as early as the end of the 2018 season. After the Patriots lost in Super Bowl LII, Gronk went public about the possibility of leaving football.

Before the Patriots Super Bowl victory this year, Gronk had discussed the physical toll football had taken on him.

“The season is a grind. It’s up and down. I’m not going to lie and sit here and say every week is the best. Not at all. You go up. You go down. You can take some serious hits. Try to imagine getting hit all the time and trying to be where you want to be every day in life. It’s tough. It’s difficult. To take hits to the thigh, to take hits to your head, abusing your body, isn’t what your brain wants. When your body is abused, it can bring down your mood. You have to be able to deal with that, too, throughout the season. You have to be able to deal with that going into games.

The five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro was a generational talent at the tight end position. Unfortunately, Gronk missed a good chunk of his career due to injury. Of the possible 144 regular-season games across his nine season, Gronk missed 29 of those games due to various injuries. Nearly every part of his body has been injured at some point and caused him to miss games, back, ankle, hip, forearm, knee, head, you name it, Gronk has dealt with it.

Gronk’s decision on whether or not he was going to retire has been an issue that has been impacting the Patriots’ offseason plans. With Gronk now out of the picture, the Patriots will need to find a new starting tight end. Dwayne Allen joined Miami this offseason and now the only tight ends for the Patriots are Stephen Anderson, Matt LaCosse and Jacob Hollister.

The Patriots were aggressive in pursuing Jared Cook over the past couple of weeks before he agreed to sign with the New Orleans Saints. While Cook has agreed to play in New Orleans, nothing is official yet, so expect the Patriots to try and make another push for Cook before anything becomes a done deal. On the other side, the Saints should be trying to lock down Cook ASAP.

After Cook, the tight end market drops off pretty significantly. The next best available option at this point would most likely be Jaguars free agent Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

However, the upcoming NFL Draft features some great talent at the tight end position. If nothing gets done in the next month, the Patriots may make a move to jump up the draft board from the 32nd pick to land a tight-end such as Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson or Irv Smith Jr.

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