Should the Bucs Trade O.J. Howard?

Luke Easterling

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent the No. 19 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft on Alabama's O.J. Howard, they hoped they were getting a rare playmaker with the size, speed and athleticism to become a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

He flashed that potential over his first two seasons, averaging 16.6 yards per catch and turning 11 of his 60 receptions into touchdowns.

But in his first season with new head coach Bruce Arians, Howard is being used as little more than a glorified fullback. Sure, his time spent in Alabama's run-heavy attack developed him into an effective blocker, but Tampa Bay's usage of his continues to waste the most dynamic parts of his skill set.

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Howard isn't seeing the ball much this season, and is spending more time as a blocker.

While the Bucs' defense continues to be challenged by athletic, pass-catching tight ends on a seemingly weekly basis, they have one of their own wasting away in what was the NFL's most explosive passing offense just one year ago.

After Arians was hired, many wondered if it would have a negative impact on Howard's numbers, considering how little Arians has prioritized his tight ends in the past. Still, fans hoped Howard's rare skill set would force Arians to buck his own trend and feature Howard in the passing game as often as possible.

Instead, Howard has seen just 18 targets through his first six games, catching just 13 passes for 176 yards and no touchdowns. 

Howard certainly bears some responsibility, having dropped a handful of catchable passes so far this season. He also lost a key fumble in a Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

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Howard's drops and a lost fumble haven't helped his cause in 2019.

Would a trade be the best thing for all parties?

The Bucs have a capable tight end in Cameron Brate, and one of the league's best wide receiver tandems in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. After back-to-back losses, the Bucs are currently sitting at 2-4, and they don't look like a contender for the 2019 playoffs.

That being the case, it could make sense for the Bucs to seek a willing trade partner for Howard, who has the talent to do wonders in an offense that would take full advantage of his skill set.

If general manager Jason Licht could stomach the thought of admitting defeat on yet another high draft pick, Howard could end up heading elsewhere before the upcoming trade deadline.

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