Now that Rob Gronkowski is a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many are wondering what will happen with former first-round pick O.J. Howard.
With the NFL Draft right around the corner, it would make sense for the Bucs to try to move Howard for an extra pick or two (possibly). They’d also receive minor cap relief in the deal after shedding Howard’s $1.9 million base salary for 2020.
But according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs plan on keeping Howard around unless they receive an offer that “blows them away”.
Unless someone blows them away on a deal for OJ Howard in these next two days, the Bucs are happy to have him line up with Gronk two TE formations. https://t.co/0PFBt7zgKQ— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) April 22, 2020
If the Bucs do in fact keep Howard, they may not have a happy Howard on their hands. 2019 was a frustrating year that saw him take a couple of steps back in terms of production, despite playing a career-high 69% of offensive snaps.
Per JC Cornell of The Draft Network, Howard is “not happy” with his current situation in Tampa Bay - something that many believed would be the case after the move to land Gronk on Tuesday. His current role in the offense as he approaches a second contract is a big factor. He’s also a candidate for a day two trade.
Look for the Bucs to trade OJ Howard on day 2. Howard isn’t happy with his situation in Tampa but the Bucs will keep him if they don’t receive the right compensation.— JC Cornell (@CornellNFL) April 21, 2020
Howard’s role in the offense will undoubtedly shrink with the arrival of Gronkowski, but there’s a good chance Gronkowski won’t be around in 2021, so Howard would resume his role as starting tight end. He’s also due to make around $9 million - unofficially - in 2021 if the Bucs decide to approve his fifth-year option. Jason Licht said back in February that the team is likely to approve the fifth-year option. I know that can change, but right now, Howard still has a shot in Tampa Bay.
There’s still plenty to play for.
The average NFL career lasts around three years, so the frustration is understandable. Howard is not only looking to further his career, but he’s also trying to get paid as much as possible. Those goals are hard to accomplish if you’re hardly on the field.
At the same time, however, it won’t do him much good if he lets his situation bleed onto the field and effect his production. Howard has a good head on his shoulders and has dealt with plenty of adversity (injury-wise) so far in his career. If the Bucs aren’t able to move him, they should still have a focused, ready, and willing Howard to help them in 2020.