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Bucs GM Comments On O.J. Howard Trade Rumors

O.J. Howard warms up before a game.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 06: O.J. Howard #80 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in action during a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on October 06, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted O.J. Howard in the first round back in 2017, but many speculated that the team's acquisition of Rob Gronkowski would make the former Alabama star expendable.

Howard seemed to fall out of favor in Tampa Bay under Bruce Arians last year. Though he started 14 games, the former No. 19 overall pick caught just 34 passes for 459 yards and one touchdown.

Before the trade between the Bucs and Patriots was consummated, analysts suggested Howard could be part of the return for New England. However, Tampa Bay elected to hold on to him, and team general manager Jason Licht says the Bucs still have Howard in their plans.

Licht is sticking up for Howard, at least publicly. Today, he said the expectation is that he and Gronkowski line up on the field together.

"We have an excellent tight end group," Licht said of the unit that also includes Cameron Brate (four touchdown catches in 2019).

Keep in mind, this is a long offseason. We've seen teams say one thing and do another many times before.

If the Bucs get a strong offer for Howard, trading him might make sense. At the same time, putting him and Gronk on the field together in two-tight end sets is also a solid plan.