The list of notable names being released continues to grow. The Bills are parting ways with veteran tight end O.J. Howard, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, he also confirms that running back Duke Johnson is being released.
Neither moves comes as a complete surprise given recent developments. Howard had put forth underwhelming performances in training camp and the preseason; the fact that he was receiving a large workload with the team’s backups and third-stringers led to speculation last week that he could be on the outside looking in during roster cuts. Given the maximum value of the one-year deal Howard signed in Buffalo ($5MM), a trade always seemed unlikely in this situation.
The former first-rounder spent five seasons with the Buccaneers, putting up consistent numbers during his first three years. His career-high of 34 catches and 565 yards has never been improved upon, however, leading to his departure in free agency and arrival in Buffalo as a backup to Dawson Knox.
The move points to Quintin Morris and Tommy Sweeney taking on larger roles as rotational players behind Knox. Howard, meanwhile, will need to quickly find a new landing spot, where a depth role (and, presumably, a much less lucrative deal) will again be the target. Buffalo will save $2.25MM by releasing him.
The situation is different for Johnson. As Schefter notes, the Bills are eyeing a return for the veteran on their practice squad if he declines to sign elsewhere. The team has been projected to use a three-man committee of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and second-round rookie James Cook. That trio, not to mention QB Josh Allen, left a rather narrow path to the 53-man squad for Johnson.
The 28-year-old began his career in Cleveland, where he posted 1,000 scrimmage yards for the first (and only) time in 2017. He has since played in Houston and, beginning late last season, Miami. With a 4.6 yards per carry average during the latter stop, he demonstrated value as at least a quality backup – something he is more likely to become elsewhere. As a vested veteran, he is not subject to waivers and can sign anywhere in free agency.