O.J. And His Fifth-year Option

January 13th, 2020


It’s not just free agents and who to draft that the Bucs have to brainstorm about.

Likely sometime in May (the NFL has yet to announce the exact date but in the past it has been in May), teams with first-round draft picks entering their fourth seasons must decide if they will pick up the player’s fifth-year option.

So the Bucs have a big decision on tight end O.J. Howard (drafted in 2017).

Howard was picked, in part, because former Bucs coach Dirk Koetter coveted him so much. Koetter obviously loves tight ends and Howard showed what kind of a weapon he could be while playing for Koetter.

This past season under Bucs coach Bucco Bruce Arians, Howard had such a down year that it is up in the air if the Bucs want to keep him. Howard was used mostly as a blocker and either he was way overrated coming out of Alabama as a blocker, or Howard was simply overwhelmed blocking NFL defensive ends.

Also, Howard struggled to make catches outside of foul balls.

Howard has a nasty knack for tipping passes into the hands of defenders for interceptions.

With that in mind, NFL writer Mike Sando of The Athletic look at each team to see which my want to exercise a fifth-year option. With Howard, Sando is leaning “Maybe.”

O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Projected cost:
$6.0 million


The price is reasonable for a tight end with talent, so that “maybe” could feel more like a “probably” here. Coach Bruce Arians doesn’t feature tight ends as much as others do. A GM said the Bucs were trying to trade Howard before the deadline, but the asking price was too high.

“That one is really interesting to me,” an agent said. “What do you do with a guy like O.J., who has some tools? He hasn’t been a red-zone threat — one touchdown all year.”

This was a paradox for Joe all throughout the 2019 season. Neither Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich nor Arians used the Bucs tight ends effectively.

Joe could whine about this and honestly, the entire offense did not pass the eye test. But damn, look at the numbers and this offense produced, both yards and points.

And yes, even though Howard was not used in the red zone, the Bucs did not struggle in the red zone. So the mystery of what to do with Howard is intriguing.

Joe’s only conclusion is that if Howard can’t greatly improve as a blocker, then quit the nonsense of trying to make him a blocker.

51 Responses to “O.J. And His Fifth-year Option”

  1. Bucsfanman Says:

    Depends on what they do with Brate really. If they go with Brate, “NO”. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for “potential” (which is a stretch btw) to bloom.
    OJ was a reach, a luxury pick. He has not lived up to the billing and I completely reject this notion that he wasn’t used effectively. Tape doesn’t lie!

  2. AlteredEgo Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation. Says:

    Gee…all the coaches winning this time of year are using pass catching TE’s early and often…just an observation

  3. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    You told us everything but the price……$5,398,000.

    That’s certainly reasonable considering what Brate was paid and Brate wasn’t utilized either…..we need to us them or just bring back Stocker….

  4. Zzbuc Says:

    Do not vive up on OJ!!
    Will be one of the worst mistakes ever….. well would be one of the worst because they’ ve done so many …..

  5. westernbuc Says:

    I don’t understand why Arians doesn’t use tight ends. They’re 1st down machines. It’s so dumb. Nothing worse than a coach married to his playbook

  6. SammyRebel Says:

    They’ll pick it up, he’s definitely trade bait tho, him and Brate and please just get rid of them

  7. MadMax Says:

    This is it. Final year Mr. Howard. I think i know why he wasnt used much, BA knows….get tough or adios. This is the biggest 1st round disappointment pick ive had. I dont know wth is going on with him….

    “looks like tarzan, plays like jane”.

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    Bucsfanman … Yes, OJ was a luxury pick but I think that he was used exactly like BA & BL wanted to use him. He got in 14 games this year and 69% of the offensive snaps (IF he’d been available for all 16 games, that number likely would’ve been 79% of the offensive snaps by extrapolation).

    My question is … ‘If he was as bad as some folks say he was, WHY did BA & BL have him on the field for almost 80% of the snaps in the 14 games that he played in?’

    Probably safe to assume that he was used as a blocker a LOT on most snaps. If he’s that bad at blocking, why not just bring in another OLineman & be done with it?

    In his 782 snaps in 2019, he was targeted only 53 times (less than 7% of the time). That’s ridiculous IMO, especially considering that Cam Brate was only targeted 55 times all season. What’s bizarre to me is that BOTH OJ & Cam had such low catch percentages (OJ – 64.2% & Cam 65.5%). I’d personally expect quality TEs to be in the 70-80% range or thereabouts (this year, 19 TEs fell within that range). For what it’s worth(?), Football Outsiders ranked OJ as the #18th best TE, and ranked Cam as the #32nd best TE. Not all that impressive for TEs making as much as they make.

  9. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    The QB whisperer seems to be Lovieish in terms of he does not adapt with the times and is going to run his offense and not learn new concepts or use a TE. Andy Reid has to be one of the all time best coaches in nfl history the guy is always adapting to his players and changing the style of his “west coast” offense. He has won with every single type of qb and now has mahomes and altered his “offense” around the skill set of mahomes which was evolved from the alex smith days. Greg Roman and Shannahan and obviously the Titans OC are similar to not set in stone what they are doing and they all want to run the ball and all of the offenses get the TE involved in their game.

  10. Allbuccedup Says:

    Trade him to Miami for one of their 3rd round picks before his value is nothing. Mad Max I believe VH3 was the biggest disappointment in a 1st round pick. But Licht still exercised his 9 mil plus option. Then released him half way through the season.

  11. Hodad Says:

    Howard, and Brate both should be traded. I’d rather use that money on Godwin, and Perriman. Already paying Evans, we can’t tie up 11 million dollars on two TE’s we don’t really use. Besides the money, we can’t throw to everybody. This offence has enough receiving options.

  12. Robert Says:

    sign him, after saving the cash on QB……

    do what the Titans did/are doing

  13. Bobby M. Says:

    I think you send him and Brate packing for cap space and a draft pick to attempt to upgrade our run game and o-line. Much like McCoy, we’ve been losing just fine with them….its time to switch the formula up if we want any chance of seeing different results.

  14. PSL Bob Says:

    There may be a clue related to OJ’s position in the draft. Remember how surprised and excited we wee that he fell to us. Maybe other teams knew something we didn’t. However, OJ showed a lot of promise in his second season under Koetter’s management. Everyone was stoked that he was going to be the real deal. And he still may be if he were utilized correctly. Probably will follow the mold of other ex-Bucs – go to another team and make the pro-bowl.

  15. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Use him…..and use him a lot…..

  16. Buc believer Says:

    Trade him to a team that knows how to use ALL there weapons….. you know like a team still in the playoffs.

  17. The Coroner Says:

    1 19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers O. J. Howard TE Alabama SEC
    1 20 Denver Broncos Garett Bolles OT Utah Pac-12
    1 21 Detroit Lions Jarrad Davis LB Florida SEC
    1 22 Miami Dolphins Charles Harris DE Missouri SEC
    1 23 New York Giants Evan Engram TE Ole Miss SEC
    1 24 Oakland Raiders Gareon Conley CB Ohio State Big Ten
    1 25 Cleveland Browns Jabrill Peppers S Michigan Big Ten from Houston [R1 – 7]
    1 26 Atlanta Falcons Takkarist McKinley DE UCLA Pac-12 from Seattle [R1 – 8]
    1 27 Buffalo Bills Tre’Davious White † CB LSU SEC from Kansas City [R1 – 9]
    1 28 Dallas Cowboys Taco Charlton DE Michigan Big Ten
    1 29 Cleveland Browns David Njoku TE Miami (FL) ACC from Green Bay [R1 – 10]
    1 30 Pittsburgh Steelers T. J. Watt † LB Wisconsin Big Ten
    1 31 San Francisco 49ers Reuben Foster LB Alabama SEC from Atlanta via Seattle [R1 – 11]
    1 32 New Orleans Saints Ryan Ramczyk OT Wisconsin Big Ten from New England [R1 – 12]
    2 33 Green Bay Packers Kevin King CB Washington Pac-12 from Cleveland [R2 – 1]
    2 34 Jacksonville Jaguars Cam Robinson OT Alabama SEC from San Francisco via Seattle [R2 – 2]
    2 35 Seattle Seahawks Malik McDowell DT Michigan State Big Ten from Jacksonville [R2 – 3]
    2 36 Arizona Cardinals Budda Baker † S Washington Pac-12 from Chicago [R2 – 4]

    Typical Bucs’ draft. Left future Pro Bowlers on the table.

  18. MadMax Says:

    @Allbuc, i never wanted vh3 in the first and was disappointed with that pick. But yeah, thats a disappointing 1st to point out also. Banks in the 2nd was another i didnt want. Who was that safety in the 1st again? I didnt want him there with our 7th pick….wanted to turn him into a LB after watching him 2 years, and then after he went to the rams, he became a LB.

  19. TOM Says:

    The way BA uses TE’s I would trade both & save 13mil. Auclair & Hudson would be fine in this offense. Saving 13mil the Bucs could sign Perriman & Nassib or?

  20. Brandon Says:

    Extend his contract and shop him if we are not going to use him. It’s simple. Sign him and when teams come offering something for him, then try to get some value in return.

  21. Tbbucs3 Says:

    This team will be just fine without OJ Sefarian Jenkins

  22. No Risk It No Biscuit Says:

    Howard and Brate will be casualty of cap relief.

    Our defense will return thanks to them.

    Go Bucs!!!

  23. Ocala Says:

    Howard is not a good NFL TE. He may have more athletic ability than any TE in the league, but he does not block well, has butter fingers and runs bad routes.
    I doubt the Bucs could get much in a trade for him.

  24. Defense Rules Says:

    Brandon … I read that extending his contract (ie, picking up his 5th year option?) would cost someplace around $6 mil (no one seems to be really sure of the actual amount). Not THAT bad IF OJ was being used as more than an additional blocker, but alas he’s not. Cam Brate will cost us $6 mil in 2020 then $6.5 mil in 2021, $6.8 mil in 2022 & $7.5 mil in 2023 then he’s a FA in 2024. Good news though: no Dead Cap in any of those years.

    Since Brate’s offensive snaps have been steadily DECREASING since 2016 (707 then down to 431 last year) I suspect that the Bucs will move Cam well before they move OJ, UNLESS there’s a beneficial trade involved. Didn’t happen last season however, and probably won’t this one either, since OJ will be a FA in 2021.

    Bottom line: In BA’s offense, we stand a good chance IMO of losing BOTH OJ & Cam after this year (and possibly Cam this year).

  25. SammyRebel Says:

    Joe, we could have drafted TJ Watt over this guy…..TJ Watt

  26. Joe Says:

    There may be a clue related to OJ’s position in the draft. Remember how surprised and excited we wee that he fell to us. Maybe other teams knew something we didn’t.


  27. Bucsfanman Says:

    Defense Rules- Valid points, as always. It’s not my contention that he’s a “bad player”. As both a pass-catcher and blocker, he has not lived to expectations and he has been given plenty of opportunity.
    To your point about why he was used so often and not additional OL, they probably wanted a “threat” downfield. When he was thrown to, he missed opportunities. I would argue that having selected a TE in the 1st, with so many other needs at the time, the expectations were more than just a JAG.

  28. Stevebobucsfan Says:

    Is it possible that they would trade Howard to New England for their 1st rounder at 24. New England need a tight end and have been known to make these type of trades. Or is Howard only like 2nd round material. Either way the Bucs are not using him so I think they will at least try to get a pick or a player

  29. adam from ny Says:

    keep brate, you know what you’ve got…

    get rid of howard, no need “waiting for him to develop” anymore…

    we have more important players to develop…

    bring in a real blocking te and keep hudson or auclair…

    i actually really liked alan cross…very versatile…bring him out of retirement

  30. Rodney Munch Says:

    Of course you’re picking up OJ’s option.

  31. JimmyJack Says:

    We go through this every two years. We change our entire coaching staff and they inherite players they don’t need and have no future plans for. Bruce don’t need a high priced TE he needs a mauler that can block that can probably make a few plays over the middle & somebody that’s sure handed.

    OJ Howard possesses nothing that Bruce can work with and he is very unreliable. You’re gonna waste some of you investments when you trade coaching staffs. OJ Howard falls into that catergory. Just trade his butt out of here and bring in a TE that can do what you want. Won’t be shocked if they keep Brate since he can get open and catch balls over the middle.

  32. JimmyJack Says:

    Or look at it this way. You can dump OJ and improve the team with his salary. If you keep OJ you are getting close to no return on your dollar. He don’t make a impact so switch out his salary for somebody who can make a real difference. Now you bring in a cheaper TE that can actually make his blocks and the team overall improves.

  33. The Coroner Says:

    Right on Joe! Like I said. A typical Bucs’ draft.

  34. T REX Says:

    We’ve over invested on the offensive side of the ball to help that loser Winston. That’s why the defense has suffered. The team was built imbalanced. Time to start spending resources on the defense. Dump that loser Winston and bring in a game manager. Run the ball and play defense. No cares about Winston’s record including his crappy won/loss record.

    Eat an L…dude is garbage.

  35. jjbucfan Says:

    Defense- Brates snaps have been decreasing because they are forcing OJ on this team, willing him to be someone he is not. Also if Coroner would have kept going, you’d find Forrest Lamp, Dalvin Cook, Cooper Krupp, Dede Westbrook, and 20 more guys better than OJ. How about the fact we picked Justin Evans before Kamara, Mixon, Hunt. I don’t hate Licht, but good God that was a bad draft for him except of course Godwin.OJ certainly has potential but Arians doesn’t use him, time to go. Also would like to see a rate re-work his deal. He has to know his cap # isn’t great

  36. jjbucfan Says:

    T REX- when we re-sign him, go away

  37. Redead Says:

    It’s strange how all the best offenses in the league center around great tight ends and Arians don’t.San Fran,KC,Patriots,etc.He’s a stubborn,arrogant,old man that is over rated.

  38. Wesley Says:

    It would be foolish to give up on him, get this guy the damn ball.

  39. Wesley Says:

    Only one touchdown all year because they don’t throw him the ball. This dude could have 10 td’s easily.

  40. donuts Says:

    Pass. Keep the proven product in Brate.

  41. donuts Says:

    I was talking to an ex-NFL player and Howard came up. Here is his quote “Looks like Tarzan plays like Jane”.

  42. Aaron Says:

    this says it all – “Arians doesn’t feature tight ends as much as others do…”

    Move on from both TEs – we have to figure out how to draft and groom “off” positions like this so that can save money for our “Important” positions.

  43. MadMax Says:

    ^ @donuts, yup, knew i wasnt the only one lol

    MadMax Says:
    January 13th, 2020 at 7:38 am

    “looks like tarzan, plays like jane”.

  44. stpetebucsfan Says:


    You make a great point and sometimes that does worry me about Arians. He does not seem flexible about working with the talent he has.


    Agree with you completely. If we’re not going to use them trade/dump Brate/OJ and use Auclair and other blocking TE’s.

    In fact…I’d go even farther. Find an athletic tackle and put an 80 number on him. People seem shocked that Vita Vea caught that TD. There are LOTS of big dudes with decent hands…if you go for a “blocking” TE and go my way…a glorified tackle…he can still catch…won’t be beating LB’s with his moves but if they ignore him bingo. Imagine adding another tackle to that OL!

    Perhaps we could finally run the ball on 3rd and short.

  45. unbelievable Says:

    “Nothing worse than a coach married to his playbook”


    Apparently the Glazers only hire stubborn-aSS, my way or the highway type coaches now. Lovie, Dirk and Bruce- all dead set in running the exact same system they’ve ran for over a decade.

    God forbid we have a coach who actually adapts and changes and EVOLVES their scheme to fit their talent and the new rules.

  46. Bucs Guy Says:

    Brate > OJ. Trade OJ for a 2nd and 4th. Brate has better production and chemistry with JW. Keep him, draft a blocking TE in the 5th rd. Use the money towards resigning our current players (Perriman?). Problem solved.

  47. BucEmUp Says:

    Howard has.become.a liability.He is a top 5 tight end talent but has bottom of tge league effort it seems.And i dont mean.on the filed, phsically it looks like he is trying but he also seems to not be focused or low on energy.Too many.drops and mistakes.The guy could be a stud byt id be willing to bet he iis more of the better known regulars at yhe strip clubs around tampa.I wouldnt pickup the option

  48. Buczilla Says:

    Trade this dude while he’s still worth something.

  49. Rob Tanner Says:

    Trade home for what you can get or Brate. We don’t need to carry both.

  50. Rob Tanner Says:

    And forgot, don’t sign or draft another TE. Draft or pickup a Full Back.

  51. Mister Negative Nancy Says:

    I’m not a Winston supporter, but one wonders how many fewer INT’s he could have if he could throw to a TE once in a while instead of always forcing it to a WR.