April 23, 2020 / 10:55 PM / a month ago

GM Licht: Bucs not looking to trade TE Howard

FILE PHOTO: NFL Football - Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers - NFL International Series - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Britain - October 13, 2019 Tampa Bay Buccaneers flags are carried on the field Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t plan to trade tight end O.J. Howard despite reports to the contrary in recent days, general manager Jason Licht said Thursday.

“We’re excited about having O.J. Howard play with Rob Gronkowski,” Licht said, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “Why wouldn’t you want to have many weapons at that position? We have an excellent tight end group right now.”

The Buccaneers acquired Gronkowski from the New England Patriots in a swap of fourth- and seventh-round picks earlier this week, fueling speculation that Howard could be dealt. Various reports have said Howard was available at the trade deadline last October and could now be moved during the draft, which starts Thursday night.

Tampa Bay drafted Howard, 25, 19th overall in 2017, and he had 60 catches for 997 yards and 11 touchdowns across 24 games through his first two seasons. However, he scored only once in 2019, when he made 34 catches for 459 yards.

Entering the fourth year of his contract, Howard is due $1.98 million in 2020. The team must decide whether to exercise his fifth-year option for 2021 by May 4.

The Buccaneers also have tight end Cameron Brate on the roster. Brate, 28, has scored 24 touchdowns over the past four seasons, though he had just four in 2019.

Brate is entering the third year of a six-year, $40.8 million extension he signed in 2018. He is due $4.25 million in 2020.

—Field Level Media

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