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The O.J. Howard Trade Spectrum

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Navigating the landscape for a potential trade.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Los Angeles Rams
O.J. Howard has not had the impactful 2019 season that most thought he’d have.
Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

It hurts that I even have to write about this.

Over the past couple of weeks, speculation has risen concerning O.J. Howard’s future with the Buccaneers. His name has been linked in several trade scenarios and a few of them seem plausible when placed under the spotlight.

Howard is one of the younger, more athletic tight ends in the league, but for some reason, the Bucs haven’t used him like Dirk Koetter did from 2017-2018. Sure, Howard has been on the field a lot more this year, but in terms of receiving production, the cupboard has been bare.

He’s only in the third year of his rookie deal, which means he will be a bargain over the next two seasons. In fact, his 2020 salary is slated at $1.97 million and will likely increase to about $9-$10 million if his fifth-year option is approved the year after.

(For context’s sake, Ja’Wuan James was the 19th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and made a little over $9.3 million in 2018.)

So (I cringe as I type this) if the Bucs were to let Howard go for some reason, where could the team get its best bang for the buck? And what scenarios do they need to avoid like the plague?

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported on Thursday that the Bucs have no interest in trading Howard, but as we all know, things can change quickly in the NFL. So, let’s explore the best, worst, and “meh” trade options if the Bucs decide to move Howard.

I’ll take that deal all day....

Obviously, any deal that yields a high pick (picks) or marquee player is preferred, but when you look across the NFL, there aren’t many players that want out of their current situations or teams that want to deal productive players.

  • Picks, picks, picks: Any deal with a litany of picks - and high picks - at that, would be welcomed, here.

Howard is a young, up-and-coming player. It’s hard to find his type of talent at his current cost. The Bucs would need to replenish the cupboard with lots of cheap, young, and talented players if they decide to let Howard go. Multiple draft picks would the best way to do just that.

But how many teams would be willing to give multiple draft picks for potential at a position that while very useful, is not a premier position in the NFL?

  • Bears CB Kyle Fuller + 3rd-5th round pick(s) for Howard + 4th-7th round pick(s):

I know, this sounds crazy. Why would the Bears trade a corner that has 9 interceptions in his last 21 regular season games?

Well, the salary cap has a lot to do with that. The Bears currently have just $12 million in cap room for 2020, which currently has them at 28th in the league. Fuller and Trey Burton will count over $26 million toward the cap next season. The Bears could gain close to $19 million in cap room if they were to make this trade for Howard and cut/release Burton. Hell, they could even keep Burton and still create upwards of $6 million in cap next year.

This would give Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky a Travis Kelce-type athlete at the tight end position, which would only help the young quarterback grow. Chicago also has enough pieces on defense to supplant the loss of Fuller.

Hmmmm, let me think on that one....

As always, there are trade offers that are very tempting, but require some thought and research.

  • Dolphins CB Xavien Howard for Howard + 3rd-5th round pick(s):

Despite being one of the highest-paid corners in the league, Howard is also one of the more underrated/unknown corners. He’s one of the best corners in the NFL, as well. Maybe that’s because he plays for Miami, but that’s another topic of conversation for another time.

This would be tempting. X (to avoid confusion with OJ) would be a perfect fit for Todd Bolwes’ defense. He’s big, physical, and fast. He would be perfect on the outside, which is what this team needs in a bad way.

He’s still young at 26 and if his play doesn’t live up to his salary (he’s due close to $24 million in 2020 and 2021), then the Bucs can cut bait with minimal penalty after 2021.

Miami has obviously shown a willingness to let go of their best players and they need a tight end. If this trade scenario were to come into play, it’d be worth the attention, at the least.

What?! Hell. No.

There are some proposals out there that are just bad. Whether it’s the player, pick compensation, or both, some trades really make you wonder about the brain capacity of those pulling the strings behind the trades.

  • Redskins LT Trent Williams + 3rd-5th round pick(s) for Howard + 2nd-4th round pick(s): According to SB Nation’s Hogs Haven, there are some whispers floating around that the Redskins could be in play for Howard.

This would be an idiotic trade if it were to happen. Williams is 31 and would count around $13 million toward the cap in 2020. He’s also up for a new deal after that.

The Bucs will need a new right tackle after this season. Demar Dotson’s career is winding down quickly. Why would the Bucs swap out one aging tackle for another, except the new tackle is three times more expensive?

Plus - and I cannot be any clearer, here - WILLIAMS IS A LEFT TACKLE. WHY WOULD YOU TRADE AWAY A POTENTIAL SUPERSTAR IN HOWARD JUST TO PLAY THE GUY YOU ACQUIRED AT A DIFFERENT POSITION?!?!

It’s also very likely that the Redskins require a high pick in addition to Howard. Remember, they turned down the Patriots’ offer of a first-rounder for Williams back in August.

Unless the Redskins offer another player (a preferably younger player) or a boatload of picks, the Bucs shouldn’t touch this one with a 30-foot pole.

Yea, screw that. We know how trades with the Patriots go. You give them all the goods and you’re left with nothing but a kick to the goods.

Kick rocks, Pats.