Bills Make Surprising Move to Cut TE After Guaranteeing Him Millions

O.J. Howard

Getty O.J. Howard #8 of the Buffalo Bills waves to a group of fans after a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Buffalo Bills made a surprise move as they whittled down the roster to 53 men on Tuesday, August 30, releasing veteran tight O.J. Howard, as first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. When the Bills first signed the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran back in March, it was widely believed the team would head into the 2022 NFL with two starting tight ends, Dawson Knox and him.

However, Howard, the No. 19 overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, failed to impress during the Bills’ minicamp, and throughout the preseason, backups such as Quinton Morris and Tommy Sweeney clearly outplayed him.

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Spectrum News 1 Buffalo reporter Jon Scott tweeted on Tuesday, “Before O.J. Howard came to the #Bills, I really couldn’t understand why he had a very limited role in TB, with other TEs not named Gronk jumping ahead. Then I watched him at every practice and preseason game over last few months and it makes sense. Can’t move like used to.”

The Draft Network’s Joe Marino said the team gave having two starting tight ends, Howard and Knox, a genuine shot. Marino tweeted, “They sure did run a lot of it during the camp practices I attended and in preseason. I think it just came down to Howard not being very effective as a reserve while Sweeney and Morris provide legit special teams value.”

Howard, who spent the first five seasons of his career with the Buccaneers, recorded 14 catches for 135 yards with one touchdown in 2021. Overall, he’s tallied 119 career catches for 1,737 yards with 15 touchdowns.

The Bills Will Eat Over $3 Million After Cutting Howard

O.J. Howard

GettyO.J. Howard #8 of the Buffalo Bills makes a catch during Bills mini camp on June 15, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York.

Despite not having a strong preseason, it seemed highly unlikely that the Bills would simply cut the 6-foot-6, 251-pound tight end since his salary was fully guaranteed. Howard signed a one-year $3.5 million contract, which means the Bills will eat $2.6 million in dead cap this season, and another $625,000 next year, Scott tweeted.

The Athletic’s Greg Auman was surprised the Bills made such a costly cut. Auman tweeted, “Howard’s deal with the Bills included $3.19 million guaranteed, so they’re paying him a lot not to play for him. He’ll land with another NFL team, but it’s telling that Buffalo would move on at such expense.”

Buffalo Rumblings analyst Bruce Nolan wrote of Howard’s release, “I didn’t predict a cut. I was more correct than people who said he was a lock and less correct than people who said he be cut.”

Because of his guaranteed money, The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia had urged the team to trade Howard instead. Buscaglia wrote of the 27-year-old, “The only way the team would save money by removing him would be via trade. The team would still be on the hook for Howard’s prorated $1.25 million signing bonus, but saving $2 million is notable.

“The tight end has struggled throughout training camp, and the difference in playing level from him to Sweeney and Morris hasn’t been as big of a gap as expected.”

According to Buscaglia, the Bills won’t want to risk putting either Morris or Sweeney on waivers while the Giants continue to snatch up nearly every cast-off coming out of Buffalo:

With Giants general manager Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll having as strong of an opinion on those players as the Bills do, it decreases the likelihood the Bills can sneak them to the practice squad. Further strengthening the case, the Giants’ tight end group is one of the weakest on their roster, with fourth-round rookie Daniel Bellinger atop their depth chart and not much behind him. Is one year of Howard worth the $2 million if the gap to Sweeney and Morris isn’t that noticeable? That’s what the Bills will need to figure out, in what is quickly turning into one of the more intriguing decisions they make Aug. 30.

The Bills Will Make Several Other Notable Cuts on Tuesday

The Bills have until 4 p.m. to get their roster under the 53-man maximum, and Howard was one of several players to get cut on Tuesday morning: running back Duke Johnson, wide receiver Tanner Gentry, defensive lineman Brandin Bryant, and offensive lineman Alec Anderson.

Buffalo needs to cut a total of 20 players on Tuesday, so that list will continue to grow throughout the day.

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