Buccaneers' OJ Howard Is the Perfect Trade Target for the Tight End-Needy Patriots
The tight end position has been exactly as expected for the New England Patriots this season. With the departure of Rob Gronkowski, the release of Benjamin Watson last week, injuries, and poor play, heading into Week 7, the Patriots may have the least amount of talent at the position out of any team in the NFL.
Second-year TE Ryan Izzo has been the most productive player at that position this season for New England; in six games he has a whopping six catches on seven targets for 116 yards and one touchdown. Along with that, Izzo has also been very involved in the run game for the Patriots, though that isn't something to hang his hat on; in September Izzo was ranked as PFF's worst run-blocking tight end in the league.
Adding another tight end to the roster will give New England an immediate boost to to their offense. Between a big pass-catcher who can catch the ball down the field, and a blocker who can be at least competent at sealing an edge for an outside run play, adding a player with versatility, upside and proven talent is the best move to make ahead of the NFL trade deadline on Oct. 29.
That is why the Buccaneers' third-year tight end, OJ Howard may be the player the Patriots go all in on via a trade.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported over the weekend that the "hottest rumor" among NFL scouts right now is a potential trade involving Tampa Bay's tight end. Despite the talent surrounding Howard, his lack of production with Bruce Arian's offense (he has 11 catches for 141 yards and no touchdowns through six weeks) has many thinking that the Buccaneers might trade him while he is still very valuable.
Howard has proven he can be successful in the league. Last season, in 10 games he managed 34 catches for 565 yards (16.6 yard per reception) and five touchdowns. Howard also managed 432 yards on 26 catches with six touchdowns his rookie season. His athleticism and downfield playmaking ability give him the potential to produce similarly to Eric Ebron last season for the Colts (66 receptions, 750 yards, 13 touchdowns).
Howard's track record at a young age and potential going forward make him a challenging trade target for any team that wants him. But in the end - it would definitely be worth it for the Patriots.
Howard's value in a trade is likely in the range of a second or third round pick based on where the Bucs drafted him, which was No. 19 overall in 2017, and his overall production compared to other tight end's in the league since then.
Howard is in the third year of his four-year, $11 million rookie deal, and is set to make a base salary of $1.4 million in 2019, according to Spotrac. New England has about $3.47 million in cap space available to use (per Miguel Benzan of Boston Sports Journal), so if his trade value rings true, Howard seems to be the perfect trade target in every sense for the Patriots.