A Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end is signing with the Buffalo Bills, but it isn’t Rob Gronkowski. His (former) teammate, O.J. Howard, has agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Bills that could escalate to $5 million, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport also reported the news.
The Bills know they have a clear-cut starting tight end in Dawson Knox, who had 49 catches for 587 yards and nine touchdowns in 2021. Knox played 87% of snaps on offense.
Behind Knox, though, the Bills had nothing (unless you count fullback Reggie Gilliam). After trading Lee Smith in the offseason, the number-two option was Tommy Sweeney, who fell out of favor with the coaching staff. Counting the playoffs, Sweeney was a healthy scratch for six of the final seven games of the season, the team preferring to activate only a single tight end.
For better balance on offense, the Bills needed another viable tight end, and that’s what Howard gives them. The 6’6” 251-lb former first-round pick is experienced, with five years in the NFL and 46 starts. He showed promise in his first two seasons, catching 60 passes for 997 yards and 11 TDs. But the Bucs weren’t satisfied, first using Cameron Brate in place of Howard and then signing Rob Gronkowski and demoting Howard to backup. By 2021, Howard was a de facto blocking tight end in the offense.
That’s okay for the Bills, who wanted a blocking tight end with receiving upside at a bargain price. If Howard can gel in the offense, maybe the team could use him and Knox as a more consistent threat that aids the running game and the passing game.
Especially if the team is moving to a 2TE offense under new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey or they are moving on from slot WR Cole Beasley, it’s a move that could pay big dividends.