After quarterback Tom Brady joined the Buccaneers last month, coach Bruce Arians said that tight end O.J. Howard‘s “eyes should light up.” Now that tight end Rob Gronkowski has joined the Buccaneers, Howard’s eyes should light up in a different way.
Howard, whose name emerged in trade discussions last year, now becomes a likely casualty of Gronkowski’s addition to a roster that also includes tight end Cameron Brate.
Like Gronkowski, Howard is under contract for one more year. Trading Howard before May 3 would allow his new team to pick up the fifth-year option that goes with a first-round contract.
Some had suggested that Howard could be sent to the Patriots as part of the Gronkowski trade. But it could still happen as a second transaction. From Tampa Bay’s perspective, it’s better to expand the potential pool of suitors in the hopes of getting more for the 2017 first-round pick.
And the Buccaneers need multiple suitors in order to get the best possible return for Howard, because the “screw it, we’ll just keep him” argument won’t work now that Gronkowski, Howard, and Brate are on the team — especially since Howard already had been linked to trade talk.
At this point, the best move for the Buccaneers would be to trade Howard whenever the draft pick they’d be getting in return is on the clock, so that the Bucs would have full dibs on the board without worrying about getting jumped for whoever it is that they would take after dropping into that slot. Even if a deal is negotiated today, part of the deal should be an agreement to keep it quiet until it’s time to use the highest pick (if more than one) that the Buccaneers would receive for a very affordable one-year, $1.977 million salary for Howard.