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 Ty Anderson,

Not even the addition of legendary quarterback Tom Brady can keep Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard’s name out of the rumor mill, as the 2017 first-round pick is once again being talked about as being on the outs for the Bucs.

So much so that The Athletic’s Mike Lombardi believes that Howard could be moved out of town within the next week.

“I think Howard’s got a great name, but I think there’s an instinctive issue going on,” Lombardi said on the latest episode of the GM Shuffle podcast. “I think he’s going to be available.”

Hmm. Interesting.

A 6-foot-6 threat, Howard has shown definite signs of promise in the past, and totaled 34 catches for 459 yards and a touchdown in 14 games in a Tampa offense dominated by Mike Evans and Chris Godwin last year. But those glimpses of promise have been come in between frustrating stretches that have mystified even his own head coach, and have almost constantly left the 25-year-old looking to fulfill his potential as a legitimate No. 1 dual-threat tight end in today’s game.

But that sky-high potential will certain be worth the gamble for any team looking for a potential answer at tight end, and that could include the Patriots, who reportedly unsuccessfully tried trading for Howard last season.

The Patriots currently have two tight ends signed to their roster (Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo), and are coming off a 2019 season featuring some of the worst production in the league at the position, with that duo (and Ben Watson) combining for just 36 catches, 418 yards, and two scores. It hit the point where Brady wasn’t even targeting his tight ends, really.

It’s a position that, even without Brady in the fold, is in need of a facelift for the Patriots.

But whether or not they have the goods to pull off a trade for Howard is the real question. New England will enter next week’s draft with 12 picks, but they do not possess a second-round choice thanks to last year’s Mohamed Sanu trade, and will experience a 64-pick wait between their first and second pick of the draft from No. 23 to No. 87 overall.

In other words, it may be a little tricky (or maybe downright impossible) for the Patriots to pry Howard out of Tampa Bay given his value, other teams’ potential bids, and the feast-or-famine nature of New England’s draft pick situation. It’s just that the Patriots likely have greater needs at No. 23 than using it as the key piece of a deal for an inconsistent tight end and T.B. should probably get more than a third-round pick for Howard if his market is indeed real. But if the Patriots could get the Bucs to bite on a third-round pick, you’d certainly like their chances, as the Patriots possess three thirds this draft.

Howard has totaled 12 touchdowns and 1,456 yards on 94 catches over a 38-game NFL career to date.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.