Three Potential Trade/Cut Candidates The Buccaneers Could Target At Tight End

BucsGameday takes a look at potential options for the Buccaneers at tight end.
Jan 7, 2024; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox (88) reacts after the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 7, 2024; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox (88) reacts after the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently added veteran depth to a relatively young receiving room outside of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin with the signing of Sterling Shepard. But that isn't the only position group on the team that's lacking established depth behind a starter. The Bucs currently boast the youngest tight end room in the league, and outside Cade Otton, there isn't much experience on the roster. Ko Kieft has played 472 offensive snaps but has just eight receptions for 82 yards and two scores in his career. He has been more of a blocking tight end and isn't someone who could fill in as a full-time starter.

Beyond him is second-year tight end Payne Durham. The fifth-round pick started to come on last year and the team is high on him coming into year two. David Wells has been a journeyman who hasn't found much success sticking on active rosters while Tanner Taula spent his rookie season on the practice squad.

READ MORE: Three Questions Before Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mandatory Minicamp in 2024

The Bucs did invest draft capital at the position in this year's draft adding, Washington's Devin Culp in the seventh round. He has a good chance to make the roster and will battle it out with Kieft for what is likely the third and final spot. Early returns have been good, as Culp has impressed in training camp with his speed and ability to separate when matched up against linebackers and safeties. But as a late-round pick, he is not a lock to make the roster.

While the room is deep, there isn't an established veteran who can be counted on to shoulder some of the load off of Otton, who played 98% of the offensive snaps in 2023. The free agent market is barren and after Marcedes Lewis just re-signed with the Bears — the best names available are Jimmy Graham, Tyler Kroft, and Geoff Swaim. It doesn't seem like any of those available players are enough to move the needle for the Bucs.

Instead, the Bucs could look to the potential trade market at a few guys who have recently had players drafted to replace their production on the roster. below is a list of players who could become available on the trade block if their respective teams feel comfortable giving larger roles to their young players.

Mo Alie-Cox

Indianapolis Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox (81) reacts after making a catch for a two-point conversion Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024, during a game against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox (81) reacts after making a catch for a two-point conversion Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024, during a game against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. / Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY

Alie-Cox is entering the final year of his $17.5 million contract he signed in 2022. Recently, the Colts have spent numerous draft picks at the position including one in 2022, two in 2023, and one in this past draft. Alie-Cox isn't the same player he was when he signed his deal after totaling just 13 receptions on 21 targets and reeling in three scores while averaging 12.4 yards per catch. However, he is still a plus blocker, posting a 65.8 career blocking grade per PFF. However, he is set to make $5.4 million this season and that may be too rich for a backup tight end for the Bucs. He could become an option as a cut candidate for the Colts.

Harrison Bryant

Dec 14, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) runs behind the block of tight end Harrison Bryant (88) during the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 14, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) runs behind the block of tight end Harrison Bryant (88) during the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Bryant may be the odd man out after the Raiders drafted Michael Mayer last year and doubled down at the position by adding Brock Bowers in the first round of this year's draft. He signed a one-year $3.25 million deal in March with a $1.5 million signing bonus. Bryant spent his first four years in Cleveland, putting up 89 receptions for 791 and 10 touchdowns. He is coming off a down year in 2023 with just 13 receptions for 81 yards and 3 touchdowns but posted an 80.2 pass-block grade with the Browns. He played his first two seasons with Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield and the pair found good chemistry together with a combined 25 receptions for 671 yards and six scores. Since his bonus was already paid out, it would cost the Buccaneers just $1.75 million to acquire Bryant for the 2024 season.

READ MORE: PFF Praises Buccaneers For Re-Signing Core Players, Addressing Needs in Draft

Dawson Knox

Bills tight end Dawson Knox makes a twisting catch for a 14 yard touchdown against Washington.
Bills tight end Dawson Knox makes a twisting catch for a 14 yard touchdown against Washington. / Jamie Germano / USA TODAY NETWORK

More of a long-shot candidate, but if the Bucs wanted to add a bonafide starting caliber tight end to the offense, Knox could make some sense. Dalton Kincaid is the future in Buffalo and looks to take on a larger share of the snaps at tight end this season which could make Knox expendable. With Knox, the Bucs would be getting a veteran who has shown he can be an every-down player after making the Pro Bowl in 2022 but struggled to produce last season and missed five games due to a wrist injury. He's coming off career lows of 22 receptions for 186 yards and two scores but was still an effective blocker with a 77.2 pass-block grade per PFF.

Knox just signed a three-year extension in 2022 that runs through 2026, and because of bonuses already paid out, it would cost the Bucs just $2.41 million for the season before the number balloons up to $8.75 in 2025. But at that point, the team could restructure the deal. It's unlikely, but Knox would give the Bucs a nasty one-two punch at the position.

You can follow JC Allen on Twitter @JCAllenNFL.

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JC Allen

JC ALLEN

JC Allen has been covering the Bucs since 2020. He is credentialed reporter and writer for Sports Illustrated’s Bucs Gameday and is the VP of the PFWA Tampa Chapter. A transplant to the area, he offers unparalleled views and insights on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.