Former Bucs First Round Pick Joins Raiders to Replace Pro Bowl Starter

Bruce Arians

Getty Former Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, now the team's senior advisor, couldn't get O.J. Howard to pan out with the team.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard found another new home on Monday, March 20, with the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Bucs’ 2017 first-round pick signed with the Raiders after a year with the Houston Texans in 2022.  Howard played for the Bucs from 2017 to 2021 before he left in free agency for the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo cut Howard in training camp, and he joined the Texans for the season.

With the Bucs, Howard caught 119 passes for 1,737 yards and 15 touchdowns in five seasons. Howard started his career strong with the Bucs amid 400-plus yards and 12 touchdowns in his first three seasons. He also started strong with former Bucs quarterback Tom Brady in 2020, but a ruptured Achilles sidelined Howard in 2020 and hindered him in 2021.

In 2022, Howard started 10 games for the Texans and caught 10 passes for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns. Howard could now help fill a void on the Raiders roster after tight end Darren Waller got traded to the New York Giants.

Amid Howard landing with a third different team since the Bucs, Tampa Bay no longer has any of the top three tight ends from the first two years of the Brady era. Rob Gronkowski retired in 2022, and the Bucs cut Cameron Brate after the 2022 season.

Brate has yet to find a new team since his release, but it’s possible he could retire according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine.

O.J. Howard Didn’t Reach Desired Heights in Tampa

The Bucs spent the No. 19 pick on Howard in 2017 because of his athleticism coming out of Alabama, but he never became a star tight end.

With the Crimson Tide, he caught 114 passes for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns in four seasons. He impressed scouts with his 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame. His NFL combine results  such as his 4.51-second 40-yard dash time and 30-inch vertical leap further impressed scouts.

Despite Howard’s collegiate prowess and athleticism,’s Adam Rank suggested the Bucs should have gone elsewhere in that draft. In Rank’s re-draft of the 2017 class, he had the Bucs take running back Dalvin Cook out of Florida State.

“The Bucs went into this draft with a huge need at running back, and it’s one they have still yet to address three years later,” Rank wrote in 2020. “Selecting Cook takes care of this problem. I was in the NFL Network newsroom when this draft was going down, and the Bucs fans in attendance were going mad, hoping that the Florida State kid was going to end up in Tampa. He did not. Well, at least not until now.”

Cook became a four-time Pro Bowler with the Minnesota Vikings, and he amassed 5,993 yards and 47 touchdowns in six seasons. Howard never made a Pro Bowl with the Bucs, and Tampa Bay needed to upgrade with Gronkowski when Brady arrived in 2022. The Bucs running game, meanwhile, never featured a 1,000-yard rusher after 2017, and the ground game flatlined in 2022.

O.J. Howard Gets Another Chance

Howard hasn’t eclipsed 15 catches, 150 yards and 2 touchdowns in any of the past three seasons amid injury issues, but he gets a new start in Las Vegas with a team that has a huge hole at tight end.

The Raiders might lose Foster Moreau, who led Raiders tight ends in receiving, to the New Orleans Saints. ESPN’s Field Yates reported that Moreau visited the Saints last week — the team that landed former Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

Howard could play a significant role in the Raiders offense with Moreau gone, too. However, Howard could face competition from another free agent tight end or a rookie, depending on the Raiders’ direction at the position.

Read More