Chances are high that the Buccaneers will have to part ways with one of their two tight ends to save money, but which one?
It’s a tale as old as time. With the euphoric high that comes from every Super Bowl win comes the low of the realization that not every player or coach will be back in the quest to repeat. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this feeling is exacerbated when one looks at the list of players set to be free agents such as Lavonte David, Shaq Barrett, and Chris Godwin to just show off the tip of the iceberg. Obviously, the goal is to keep as many of these players as possible, but in order to do so, something has got to give.
Another player on this list is tight end Rob Gronkowski, who more like than not will either resign or retire. If he were to resign along with some other players, the Buccaneers will need to save some money. In order to do that, they will most likely have to sever ties with some of their own players who aren’t set to be free agents. One doesn’t have to look far. In fact, we don’t even have to leave the tight end room which leads us to this question:
O.J. Howard or Cameron Brate: Who are the Buccaneers more likely to move?
It would definitely be ideal if the Buccaneers managed to trade one of either O.J. Howard or Cameron Brate so they get something in return. However, if they were to outright release one of these two tight ends, it would really be no harm no foul salary cap-wise, as the team would owe a grand total of $0 in dead cap. In Howard’s case, the caveat is they would need to do so before March 17th.
So now that finances have been rendered essentially a moot point, let’s look at production. The NFL stands for “National Football League”, but it also stands for “Not For Long”, so with that being the case it’s the quintessential “what have you done for me lately” league. So while Howard has been with the Buccaneers since he was a first-round pick in 2017, and Brate being in Tampa Bay since 2014, we really only need to look at the most recent season.
Brate is coming off of a season where he hauled in 28 catches for 282 yards and two touchdowns as the second tight end behind Gronkowski. In the playoffs, Brate added another 14 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown for good measure. Leonard Fournette may have gotten all the shine as “Playoff Lenny” this past postseason, but Brate also filled the Joe Jurevicius role of bursting onto the scene seemingly out of nowhere just in time for the playoffs.
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Howard, on the other hand, was once again bitten by the injury bug. He has yet to play a full season but did flash some of his first-round talents by catching 11 balls for 146 yards and two touchdowns in his four games, also behind Gronkowski and rotating with Brate on the depth chart.
So where does that leave us? Well, Howard will be playing on his fifth-year option if he were to stick around, but when we say “playing” we don’t even know how many games that’ll be in. If Howard does stay healthy and balls out, then the Buccaneers will have to pay the former first-round pick even bigger bucks (no pun intended), and we’re back to square one. Given the injury history, and the fact that Brate’s production has been comparable to Howard’s, Brate would be the more likely tight end to stay while Howard is shown the door.
Of course, the Buccaneers may end up parting ways with both or neither tight end, but for now, O.J. Howard is the more likely cap casualty at tight end as opposed to Cameron Brate for the Buccaneers.