The Buccaneers have about $20MM of salary cap space tied up at the tight end position between Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate, and there was plenty of speculation that the club could look to deal either Howard or Brate now that Gronk is in the fold.
However, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, no realistic trade options presented themselves to Tampa (Twitter link). We heard a few days ago that the team nearly dealt Howard to the Redskins in exchange for Trent Williams back in February, so Fowler’s report may simply mean that no viable trade proposals surfaced after the Gronk acquisition on April 21 and throughout this weekend’s draft. In any event, it looks as if Tom Brady will have all three players at his disposal in 2020.
Fowler adds that the Bucs never felt the need to trade a tight end and that they are comfortable with their significant financial investment in the position. But it’s not as though they really have a choice. It’s much more likely that an opposing team would pursue Howard instead of Brate, and Howard carries a 2020 cap charge of just $3.5MM, $1.5MM of which would remain on the Bucs’ cap even if he were traded. One way or another, the overall TE cap hit is significant, so it makes sense to simply give Brady as many options as possible and to see if he can help Howard start to realize his potential. GM Jason Licht acknowledged as much several hours before this year’s draft got underway.
It remains unclear if the Bucs will pick up Howard’s fifth-year option for 2021. Though the option would be guaranteed for injury only since Howard was a 2017 draft choice, the Alabama product has not lived up to his status as a first-round selection, so his future in Tampa remains up in the air.
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