Life comes at you fast when you're in the NFL. In early March, Tom Brady was technically still the quarterback of the New England Patriots -- ahead of his first go at unrestricted free agency -- and Rob Gronkowski was a retired former All-Pro trying his hand at WWE wrestling, winning the 24/7 title in the process. Now, in late April, both are officially members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization, and that leaves the question of what will happen with O.J. Howard when considering Gronkowski instantly becomes the favorite tight end target of Brady.
Howard finds himself in a precarious spot with the team that selected him 19th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft -- he has been the topic of trade rumors for months now. To that point, it appears the Buccaneers nearly closed a deal far ahead of landing Gronkowski, per Jenna Laine of ESPN, that would've sent him to the Washington Redskins in exchange for offensive tackle Trent Williams. That deal obviously fell through as the Redskins continue to look for a suitor to move Williams and the Buccaneers take more calls on Howard, and the latter having not been included in the Gronkowski trade package doesn't mean the Patriots are out on adding him to their roster.
According to CBS Sports insider Jason La Canfora, there "remains a distinct possibility" Howard plays in New England in 2020, which makes sense considering they're rather desperate to finally fill the void left by the retirement of Gronkowski a season ago.
It's clear the Buccaneers aren't going to simply give Howard away, but they have until May 5 to execute his fifth-year option and are under at least some sort of pressure to make a move ahead of or during the NFL draft. The club has seven picks in 2020, and wouldn't mind landing more, if at all possible. With the addition of Gronkowski, the Bucs are at an impasse when assessing their tight end rotation. They awarded Cameron Brate a six-year, $40.8 million contract in 2018 and, like Howard, he makes for a potent complement to Gronkowski.
The problem is -- right now -- Gronkowski is only under a one-year deal by virtue of the final year of his current contract and with no guarantee he'll be around in 2021, so shipping Howard away might not be the best medicine. That is unless Tampa Bay gets a premium in return and subsequently locates another talented tight end as insurance, be it now or next offseason. The bottom line is if the Bucs get an offer they can't refuse, Howard will be in a different uniform in 2020.
If they don't, he won't.