Buccaneers Sign Playmaking Tight End: Report

Todd Bowles

Getty Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles has another new tight end coming to training camp soon.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers added tight end depth with the signing of pro football veteran Jonathan “Bug” Howard on Thursday, July 28.

Howard, 27, comes to training camp fresh off leading the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars in receiving this spring and summer. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end caught 30 passes for 371 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games played for the Stars, which fell short in the USFL championship game on July 3. His agent, Lamont Smith, announced the Bucs signing on Thursday.

Before playing in the USFL, Howard bounced around the NFL from 2017 to 2021 with the Indianapolis, Cleveland, Carolina, Denver, Jacksonville, and Buffalo. He played college football at North Carolina from 2013 to 2016 where he caught 146 passes for 2,048 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Howard recently showed that he can make an impact on the field in the USFL, a league made up of many players with NFL experience. He makes big catches on offense and big blocks on special teams. He became the 23rd USFL player to join an NFL team since the USFL season ended.

He also showed playmaking ability in The Spring League in 2020, a developmental league for aspiring professional football players. Prior to that, he played for the Atlanta Legends in the Alliance of American Football professional league in 2019 where he posted 17 catches for 220 yards in eight games.

Nicknamed “Bug” by his mother, Howard grew up in Rochelle, Georgia, and amassed the second-best single season receiving total in Georgia prep history in 2014. Notable current NFL receivers and tight ends from the state of Georgia include Tyreek Hill, Breshad Perriman, Michael Gallup,  and Jared Cook.

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Seventh Shot for Howard

Howard entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2017, but he hasn’t ever played a regular season game. His NFL experience consists of training camps and practice squads among his six stops.

He spent most of the 2017 season on the Browns practice squad, and he also spent time on the Broncos practice squad in 2019 Jaguars practice squad in 2020. His stints with the Colts, Panthers, and Bills ended during training camp or the preseason.

Bucs Needed Another Tight End After McElroy Waiver

Tampa Bay created a need for more tight end depth after waiving Codey McElroy Tuesday, July 26. It made roster space signing wide receiver Julio Jones, but the Bucs whittle the team’s tight end numbers down to five with the McElroy injury waiver. McElroy has a foot injury and will have surgery this week according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine.

In order to make room on the roster for Howard, the Bucs waived punter Sterling Hofricther according to The Athletic’s Greg Auman. The Bucs essentially decided the punting job by drafting Georgia’s Jake Camarda as Auman noted.

The Bucs faced a major transition at tight end this year with Rob Gronkowski‘s retirement, which left Cameron Brate as the only tight end on the team with significant experience. Veteran free agent Kyle Rudolph then signed with the Bucs on July 20 to alleviate the loss. The Bucs previously added Cade Otton and Ko Kieft through the draft in April and signed undrafted free agents Ben Beise and J.J. Howland in June.

Howard will add to the competition among the Bucs tight ends at training camp, and not all seven will make the final cut. Last season, the Bucs carried five tight ends on the active roster.


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