New England Patriots

Sep 22, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard (80) reacts during the second quarter against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt McCarthy,

The Patriots are still looking to bolster their offense ahead of next Tuesday’s trading deadline.

The team has been linked to a number of wide receivers and tight ends in trade rumors in recent weeks, with the latest being Buccaneers tight end OJ Howard.

According to Albert Breer of The MMQB, the Patriots approached Tampa Bay about Howard but were told he is not available.

“The Patriots’ decision to bring Benjamin Watson back…only further illustrates the team’s problems at Rob Gronkowski’s old spot. Eight days until the trade deadline. New England already asked, and was told no on, Buccaneers tight end OJ Howard,” Breer reported.

The 24-year-old Howard hauled in five touchdowns and 565 receiving yards last year. He has seen a more limited role in the Bucs offense this year, recording only 13 catches.

The Pats will likely explore additional tight end options via a trade before next Tuesday, according to Breer.

“I’d expect [the Patriots will] be turning over rocks this week at the position,” Breer added.

The Patriots currently have three tight ends on the 53-man roster: Watson, Ryan Izzo, and the newly-signed Eric Tomlinson.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.