Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started shopping tight end O.J. Howard even before they acquired Rob Gronkowski. When Gronkowski arrived in Tampa Bay, many expected Howard would be traded during the 2020 NFL Draft.

Instead, the former first-round pick remains with the Buccaneers and he might be staying for quite some time despite his trade request. Tampa Bay never received the realistic offer it was seeking to move Howard or tight end Cameron Brate, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, and they now plan to keep them heading into the season.

It’s an understandable decision by the Buccaneers. Both players proved to be nice pieces in Bruce Arians’ scheme this past season and they provide additional weapons to help Tom Brady be successful.

Brate is trusted more as a receiving option, having caught four-plus touchdowns in each of his past four seasons. The 28-year-old’s best year came in 2016, when he hauled in 57 receptions for 660 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

The Buccaneers used Howard primarily as a blocker in 2019, but the 6-foot-6 tight end is an excellent athlete capable of making big plays. Since being drafted with the No. 19 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Howard has averaged 15.5 yards per catch and found the end zone 12 times.

Keeping both tight ends on the roster will allow Tampa Bay to manage Gronkowski’s snaps. Even after a year away from the game, the 30-year-old will need his playing time managed after being limited by back injuries late in his career.

While it might not be the most affordable plan for a team that is tight on cap space, the Buccaneers will boast the best trio of tight ends next season. Pair that with all of their other weapons and it’s easy to see why this will be a Super Bowl contender in 2020.

Matt Johnson
NFL, MLB & college football writer for Sportsnaut. Graduated from San Diego State University with BA in Journalism, 2019. Grew up in Sacramento, now based in Indianapolis. Seen on MSN. Previously: eDraft, The Connection, With the First Pick