Before the 2017 NFL Draft, Tight End O.J. Howard was considered the top prospect at his position. A lock to be drafted in the first round, Howard’s athleticism and talent were expected to translate into an NFL starter with All-Pro potential. Before that, he was the nation’s top recruit at his position. As he heads his fourth season in the league, it sounds like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to trade him.
Michael Lombardi mentioned on his podcast GM Shuffle that Howard could be traded in the upcoming NFL Draft. This year’s class doesn’t offer much at the tight end position, so any team looking for a tight end might be intrigued by the prospect of adding a young player through a trade with the Bucs.
With only 25 years of age, it’s impossible to dismiss him as a potential target for the Dallas Cowboys. As a player who’s set to hit free agency after 2020, the price for O.J. Howard could be as low as an early Day 3 pick. Since last year, the Bucs have been rumored to be shopping the former Alabama star tight end. It’s clear both the team and the player are interested in a fresh start.
Howard has failed to live up to the hype, having played zero complete seasons until the moment and catching only 94 passes in his career (an average of 31 per season). Last season, Jason Witten caught 63 passes for the Cowboys after coming out of retirement. He has yet to cross the 600-yard mark in any season and found the endzone once in 2019.
But his athletic ability and raw potential could still be transformed into a solid NFL starter if he lands in the right team. In Tampa Bay, he shared playing time with veteran Cameron Brate and played in an offense featuring Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. While some fairly see this as a negative for Howard (arguing that he should face fewer double-coverages and be open more often) it’s also fair to point out Jameis Winston’s offense might not have benefited him.
He’s still 25 years old and should at least be worth the trouble of picking up the phone and asking for the price. If it’s a fourth-round pick we’re talking about, Howard should be worth it.
Even still, I’d be surprised if the Cowboys are the team to pick up the phone. The front office signed Blake Jarwin to a contract extension earlier in the season and seem to be all-in in their young in-house project that hasn’t seen starter playing time in his career.
On the other hand, even with Lombardi’s report, I’d be surprised to see the tight end out of Tampa Bay in 2020. The Bucs just signed Tom Brady and might want to wait to see if he turns their 2017 first-round selection around.