New England Patriots

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 22: O.J. Howard #80 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates while scoring a touchdown in the third quarter of an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills on October 22, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

By Ty Anderson,

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be reversing course with tight end O.J. Howard.

Rumored to be on the trade block (yet again) heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, and not exactly long for the Bucs based on Bruce Arians’ past comments on the three-year pro, Howard’s future in Tampa seemed to be in even more doubt following the Bucs’ move for the now-unretired Rob Gronkowski earlier this week. But speaking with ESPN’s Adam Schefter ahead of the night one of this year’s draft, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht put any Howard trade talk to rest.

To Licht’s point, keeping Howard would give the Buccaneers a definite three-headed monster at a typically thin position around the league between Gronkowski, Howard, and Cameron Brate (24 touchdowns over the last four seasons). It may also speak to how the Bucs planning on utilizing a slimmed-down Gronkowski in their offense, too, even with Gronkowski planning on gaining an additional 10 pounds between now and the start of the 2020 season.

The news may be a bummer to a tight end-starved team like the Patriots, who had expressed interest in Howard in the past, have just two tight ends signed to their roster (Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo), and entered the 2020 draft with 12 picks.

At the same time, if the Patriots didn’t make a serious push to add Howard in the Gronkowski trade talks, it’s worth wondering if they were indeed as interested as we would be led to believe based on their needs and past interest.

Howard, drafted with the 19th overall pick in 2017, had 34 grabs for 459 total yards last season, and 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.