A swap of O.J. Howard for John Ross would benefit both teams

O.J. Howard,Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
O.J. Howard,Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

The Buccaneers have little use for struggling tight end O.J. Howard. A change of scenery is needed and swapping Howard for John Ross could help Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers face an unfavorable reality regarding the long-term status of the team’s tight end O.J. Howard. The former first-round pick’s fifth-year option is looming with the Buccaneers having until May 3rd to decided if they will pick the option up or not.

Many from Tampa Bay’s fanbase want to keep Howard in the fold and hope he’s able to reach his full potential with their new tight end favorable quarterback in Tom Brady. But even with Brady on the team, Howard’s presence in head coach Bruce Arians‘ offense still appears bleak.

Since becoming an NFL head coach in 2013, Arians has yet to have a tight end amass more than 40 receptions in a single season. Rob Housler lead all Arians coached tight ends with 39 catches in a season. Buccaneers’ tight end, Cameron Brate, was just three receptions away from tying that mark, while Howard trailed by five.

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Expecting Arians to change his style at this point is just unrealistic. Yes, the head coach hasn’t coached a tight end of Howard’s potential before, and pairing the former first-rounder with Brady is intriguing, but is it worth hanging onto for just one more season?

Tampa Bay isn’t likely to pick up Howard’s club option for 2021, which will make the tight end an unrestricted free agent next offseason. Would another 34 receptions for 459 yards and one touchdown be worth keeping for another season? The answer is no, and the Buccaneers would be wise to find any value for a young player that isn’t a part of the team’s long-term plans.

The Buccaneers appear to be gauging the trade market for Howard, just like the team did during the 2019 NFL trade deadline.

"“I get a phone call … from somebody in the league saying, ‘Look, I don’t think Howard is going to be on the team,” former NFL executive Micahel Lombardi reported on his podcast, The G.M. Shuffle on Tuesday.“[Buccaneers] are trying to trade him. They wanted a second-round pick for him at the (trade) deadline, and nobody wanted to give it.”"

Reports indicate Tampa Bay’s desire to move up from the No. 14 pick in the first round, and Howard could potentially be a part of the package for the Buccaneers to do so. But given the lack of interest around the league meeting the team’s demands this past trade deadline, the Buccaneers may be forced to face other options moving on from Howard.

The Buccaneers should offer a swap of Howard to the Cincinnati Bengals for John Ross.

Trading one 2017 first-round disappointment for another may not sound like an ideal scenario for Buccaneers fans, but John Ross possesses the exact game-breaking speed ability Arians’ offense requires.

The record holder of the NFL’s fastest ever 40 yard dash time at 4.22 seconds, Ross’ NFL career hasn’t gone according to plan since entering the league. Mostly injuries have plagued the former first-round pick’s career, but confidence issues in Cincinnati have arisen, and a change of scenery might be best for both sides at this point.

"“This is the honest to god truth. You know me. I ain’t sugar coating [expletive]. John Ross can [expletive] go,” former NFL wideout and current Fox Sports analyst T.J. Houshmandzadeh said on his former teammate Willie Anderson’s Instagram Live on Friday night.“Everybody knows he’s fast. He’s quick, he can run routes, and he catches the ball. Physically, it’s phenomenal. It has to be mental. [Bengals] took his confidence from him.”"

Houshmandzadeh has worked with Ross over the past few years. The former Bengals receiver hinted at Ross having confidence issues since his rookie year after the team made him the ninth overall pick in the draft.

A move to Tampa Bay playing behind receivers such as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin could jumpstart Ross’ career. By removing the pressure from proving to be worthy of a top ten selection in Cincinnati and replacing that with No. 3 wideout expectations with the Buccaneers behind young and healthy star receivers — Ross could finally reach his deep threat potential.

The Buccaneers still have to replace the vertical element of their offense former receiver, Breshad Perriman, brought to the team last season. Ross can quickly fill that void while also being a similar reclamation project for Arians, just as Perriman was a year ago after failing to meet his first-round expectations.

The Bengals appear to be open to the idea of drafting a wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft, which could ease the loss of Ross and his playmaking ability. Given a relatively weak tight end draft class, Cincinnati could provide their presumed young signal-caller, Joe Burrow, a tight end with a high ceiling and NFL experience in Howard.

This trade could prove to be a win-win for both sides. Bengals get a young tight end that could reach his full potential in new surroundings and a long-term pass-catcher to establish chemistry with the team’s rookie quarterback. The Buccaneers would then get the speed threat that their offense relies on to keep defenses honest.

Both teams will also have the luxury of walking away from either player after the 2020 season if these options don’t pan out in their new situations. This is exactly why the player for player swap wouldn’t affect either team for the long-run.

Arians would be the perfect coach to tap into Ross’ speed potential given the likes of former speedster wideouts coached by the head coach and former coordinator in Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, T.Y. Hilton, John Brown, JJ Nelson, and most recently Perriman.

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Howard gets his change of scenery while escaping the Buccaneers offense and its lack of tight end usage. Tampa Bay flips him for an immediate impact in addition to adding another playmaker for Brady’s disposal.

Brate can handle the tight end role in an Arians offense just fine and should see an increase in his touchdown numbers with his new quarterback. Tampa Bay can afford to move on from Howard.

The Buccaneers’ desire to add value in place of Howard should lead them to discussions with the Bengals on acquiring Ross for the tight end. Arians can get his speedster; the Bengals land a tight end with upside.