Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox projects Howard to get cut by the Las Vegas Raiders in training camp this month. If that happens, Howard would seek his fifth team since he left the Bucs after the 2021 season. Howard simply experienced bad timing in this instance with his job on the line.
“After trading standout tight end Darren Waller to the New York Giants, the Las Vegas Raiders added veterans Austin Hooper and O.J. Howard to help replace him,” Knox wrote. “That was before they landed Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer in the second round.”
“If Mayer manages to claim the starting job in camp, one of the veteran additions could be out,” Knox continued. “Of the two, Howard is the most likely bubble candidate.”
Howard had a quiet 2022 season with the Houston Texans with 10 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games played. Hooper produced at a much higher level with 41 receptions for 444 yards and two scores with the Tennessee Titans last season.
“To secure a roster spot, Howard will have to prove he’s one of the three best tight end options,” Knox wrote.
That could be a tall order for Howard, who saw his career decline after an Achilles injury with the Bucs in 2020. He caught 94 passes for 1,456 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first three seasons, and 2020 looked promising before the injury.
O.J. Howard Never Looked the Same Amid Bucs Comeback
Howard returned to the field in 2021 with the Bucs, but he never contributed as much as he did in the past. He finished with just 14 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown amid nine starts in 17 games played that season.
Tampa Bay certainly needed him to return to form as top tight end Rob Gronkowski dealt with injury and retired after the 2021 season. The Bucs drafted Cade Otton and Ko Kieft in the 2022 draft to alleviate the losses of Gronkowski and Howard.
Instead of re-signing with the Bucs, Howard opted for the Buffalo Bills in March 2022. The Bills released him in August 2022 before he signed with the Texans.
Cade Otton Wants to Be Like Gronkowski in a Unique Way
When the Bucs first acquired Gronkowski in 2020, he blocked primarily but re-emerged as a pass-catching threat, too. Otton wants to emulate Gronkowski’s blocking, heading into a second season with the Bucs.
“I ultimately want to be an every-down tight end, just never come off the field and be a big contributor in the run game and the pass game,” Otton told reporters in June. “[I want to] have the coaches be able to trust me on the front-side run plays to take care of defensive ends, and also to win one-on-one versus safeties. You’ve seen some of the greats do that, like Gronk and Travis [Kelce] and George [Kittle]. I just want to look at the greats in the game and emulate after them.”
Otton had 42 receptions for 391 yards and two touchdowns in 2022 with the Bucs.