The Buffalo Bills released veteran tight end O.J. Howard on Tuesday as part of their cutdown to 53 players on their first official roster of the 2022 NFL season. On Thursday, Howard signed a contract with the Houston Texans. The deal was first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Howard, 27, was a first-round draft choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017. He never lived up to the lofty expectations that come with being the No. 19 overall pick, as he totaled 119 receptions for 1,737 yards and 15 touchdowns in five seasons with the Bucs. Over his last two professional seasons, he was increasingly phased out of Tampa Bay’s offense, recording just 25 receptions for 281 yards and three touchdowns in 21 games played over the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Howard was signed by the Bills on March 16, and he was expected to provide solid, athletic depth for starter Dawson Knox. Given that his one-year contract contained $3.195 million in guarantees, he was considered a roster lock by most. A subpar preseason coupled with strong showings out of Tommy Sweeney and Quintin Morris spelled the end for Howard in Buffalo before it really began.
The Bills will receive a salary cap credit on the 2023 cap based on Howard’s contract with Houston. Terms of that deal have yet to be announced; however, Buffalo can receive up to $1.94 million thanks to offset language in the contract he signed with the Bills. Whatever the Texans are paying Howard up to that $1.94 million will come off the books at the end of the season.
Howard’s first free-agent visit was with the Cincinnati Bengals, and it was widely reported that he was expected to sign there after that visit. However, he did not, choosing to go to Houston instead. The Texans’ roster has only Brevin Jordan and Pharaoh Brown listed at tight end, so Howard should be able to find more playing time with the Texans than he would have with Buffalo or Cincinnati. Veteran Hayden Hurst sits atop the depth chart with the Bengals.