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FAB 1. Howard Needs A Big Year To Remain A Buc

The good news for tight end O.J. Howard is that the Bucs picked up his fifth-year option despite battling through injuries in his first three years of an up-and-down stint in Tampa Bay. Howard only played in four games last year and saw his season end prematurely due to an Achilles tendon injury in Week 4. The bad news is it hasn’t worked out so well for the Bucs that have recently had their fifth-year options picked up.

General manager Jason Licht picked up the fifth-year option for quarterback Jameis Winston, the team’s first-round pick in 2015, for the 2019 season. But after watching Winston throw a league-high 30 interceptions Licht wisely walked away and pursued Tom Brady instead. The move was undoubtedly the right one was it resulted in a Super Bowl championship last season.

Licht also picked up the fifth-year option for cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2016, but he didn’t even make it to the 2020 season as the team cut him during the 2019 campaign.

Here’s hoping Howard has better luck.

He needs it.

When Howard has played well, he’s gotten hurt. And when he’s been healthy, he hasn’t played well.

In four year since being drafted 19th overall Howard has yet to play in all 16 games of any season. He showed promise in Dirk Koetter’s offense as a rookie, catching 26 passes for 432 yards (16.6 avg.) with six touchdowns. That earned him a 61.4 overall grade from Pro Football Focus and a 64.8 receiving grade. An ankle injury caused him to miss the last two games of the 2017 season.

Howard had an even better year in 2018. He a career-high 34 receptions for 565 yards (16.6 avg.) and five TDs. Yet he missed the last six games of the season due to a knee injury. Howard struggled to adjust to Bruce Arians’ offense in 2019 and had a career-high four dropped passes. Some of those drops resulted in costly interceptions. Howard also a big fumble in the season opener against San Francisco.

Yet he still caught 34 passes for 459 yards (13.5 avg.), but only scored one touchdown. A year after posting an 88.9 overall grade from PFF and a 90.2 receiving grade, Howard had a career-low 54.7 PFF grade with a 58.8 receiving grade in 2019. The dropped passes and lack of touchdowns negatively affected Howard’s confidence.

Howard’s Career In Tampa Bay

2017: 14 games – 26 catches for 432 yards (16.6 avg.), 6 TDs
2018: 10 games – 34 catches for 565 yards (16.6 avg.), 5 TDs
2019: 14 games – 34 catches for 459 yards (13.5 avg.), 1 TD
2020: 4 games – 11 catches for 146 yards (13.3 avg.), 2 TDs

Howard refocused heading into the 2020 campaign. He was also excited to work with Brady and future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski, who was a great mentor for him. There was talk in the media that Howard might be traded with the addition of Gronkowski. But that was never the Bucs’ plan at all.

Bucs TEs OJ Howard and Rob Gronkowski

Bucs TEs OJ Howard and Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“I think the trade talk was outside the building,” Arians said during training camp. “I never talked to him about it. All I talked to him about was getting better and he was going to be here for a while and believe it. I think with Tom helping him confidence-wise. And watching Gronk work, they’ve been a good combination helping each other – him helping Gronk learn the offense. It’s been great for him. He’s still a young player, and to be around a great player [will] elevate your game.”

Howard had a sensational camp and he and Brady quickly developed a rapport, especially in the red zone.

“He’s had a great camp,” Arians said in August. “He came back in great mental shape and physical shape. He’s making plays every single day, so I can’t say enough about him right now.”

Bucs tight ends coach Rick Christophel noted that Howard made some serious strides in August.

“I think compared to last year, right now he’s probably a lot better than what he was,” Christophel said. “He’s starting to learn to run routes – how to get out of routes. And I think being around Tom has helped him too because Tom’s given him some pointers. I’ve been in the business so long, [but] I don’t have all the answers. I know there are other guys that know how to do things better, and that’s only to help him. And I think once he keeps doing those things, and he sees those things, it’s going to help him become an even better player than what he is right now.”

Despite being the No. 2 tight end behind Gronkowski instead of the starter, Howard was off to a great start through the first four games of the 2020 season. He caught 11 passes for 146 yards (13.3 avg.) and two touchdowns, including a key score against the Chargers in the Bucs’ comeback win despite trailing by 17 points. Unfortunately he ruptured his Achilles tendon right after his TD and was placed on injured reserve. In limited action, Howard earned an 80.1 PFF grade, including an 85.3 receiving grade.

Bucs TE O.J. Howard

Bucs TE O.J. Howard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Had Howard stayed healthy for the 2020 season and continued at that pace he would have set new careers with 44 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns. But that’s been the problem – staying healthy.

Howard is scheduled to make $6,013,000 in 202o. In order for him to cash in on a long-term extension he’ll need to avoid injuries and pick up where he left off from.

“What a huge addition to have him back because he was having a great year,” Arians said last week. “I think, again, the sky’s the limit for what he can do in this offense.”

Arians noted that Howard’s recovery is progressing to the point where he could be available to participate this offseason.

“He’s really close,” Arians said. “He’s not running on the grass yet but he’s really close. The last time I checked it was 85% body weight running in ‘AlterG’ and [he] looks fantastic. I don’t see any setbacks. If and when we can get together in this offseason program, he’ll be ready to go.”

Now that he’s spent two years in Arians’ system he’s much more comfortable in his role and ready to become the weapon he was drafted to be in the first round.

“It’s always a tough position in a lot of offenses from the different things they ask you to do in the position,” Howard said during last year’s camp. “But here, like coach said, it was kind of a different level taken to it with some of the things we had to learn in the offense. Last year it took some getting used to [in 2019]. Year two has slowed down for everyone in our room. … It’s just different things that they ask us to do in this offense at the tight end position that you may not have done in the past. Year two, like I said, is a lot simpler. It makes a lot more sense and now it’s making sense to all of us in the room.”

Bucs TE O.J. Howard

Bucs TE O.J. Howard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The key was Howard finally knowing Arians’ offense well enough to help teach it to Gronkowski. In turn, Gronkowski helped build Howard’s confidence. He also helped teach him some of the tricks of the trade he had learned in his five-time Pro Bowl career.

“I think the biggest thing for O.J. was just learning what we’re trying to teach,” Arians said. “That’s a very difficult position in this scheme and he’s come in and he’s got a great handle on it right now. I think Rob’s helped him confidence-wise – seeing how good he is and telling him how good he is. When you’ve got a guy like Gronkowski and Brady telling you you’re good, you’re probably pretty good.”

How good can Howard be in 2021? The Bucs can’t wait to find out.

FAB 2. Tampa Bay Has The Luxury Of Drafting Best Players Available

The Bucs are going to select the best player available with the 32nd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

No joke.

With every starter back from the 2020 Super Bowl championship team, why not?

Bucs GM Jason Licht

Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: USA Today

The only spot where Tampa Bay’s first-round pick would see the field as a rookie would be running back – if that player could steal some carries from Leonard Fournette or Ronald Jones II. Perhaps a first-round outside linebacker could rotate in with Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett as a designated pass rusher.

But where else would a first-rounder get any playing time in Tampa Bay in 2021?

It doesn’t matter, according to Licht.

“That’s a luxury we have this year,” Licht said. “We can pick who we think is going to be the best player in two years. That’s always how we set our draft board – what’s this guy going to be in two years? Everybody wants it to be in two games, but we’re going to take the long view here and get a player we’re going to be happy with in the long haul.”

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians didn’t rule out taking the ultimate luxury pick – a quarterback and an eventual successor to Tom Brady – but there won’t be a QB worth taking at the end of the first round. Don’t rule out a quarterback like Florida’s Kyle Trask or Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond later in the draft for Tampa Bay.

With such a well-stocked roster thanks to Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg re-signing all of Tampa Bay’s big free agents in March, the Bucs will be living in the lap of luxury throughout the draft. Not just in the first round.

“To be honest, you always wanted to be sure you set your draft board where you weren’t pushing your positions of need up too high because that’s where you make your mistakes,” Licht said. “Sometimes it just naturally happens and you’ve got to put the reins on it so you don’t make those mistakes – as many of those mistakes. It is a really good feeling this year that literally just about any player at any position we could take. I guess I’ll say I won’t take a kicker.”

Re-signing Ryan Succop has officially taken the kicker position off the board for Licht. I’m guessing the Bucs will probably abstain from drafting a punter too with Bradley Pinion still under contract.

What isn’t off the board is potentially trading back out of the first round, although staying at No. 32 would allow the Bucs to draft a player with a fifth-year option in their rookie contract.

Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians

Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“We’re not going into this saying we’ve got to trade out of that pick or that we’re going to stick with the pick no matter what,” Licht said. “That will present itself as the draft goes and we get closer to our pick. There has been several times I think when – and we’ve been picking high lately – it gets down to the 32nd pick and I’m like, ‘Oh man, I wish we had a pick right here because I really like this guy here.’ Picks 1-32 they all have a 50 percent chance of being a player, so the chances of a guy being good, being a very good player are just as good at 32 as they are at 1.”

Regardless of whom the Bucs select with their first pick, Licht and the organization will be drafting a future starter.

“We have to take the long view,” Licht said. “There are other positions as well that we’re going to need down the line, in the future. So we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into saying we have to take a certain position high in the draft. I think that’s one of the good things about our situation right now. We can take the best player.”

So which positions will the Bucs need to draft for down the line? Let’s take a look at those in Fab 2.

FAB 3. Bucs’ Positions Of Need – Now And In The Future

General manager Jason Licht said the Bucs aren’t ruling out any positions in the 2021 NFL Draft. Outside of kicker and punter, of course. But what positions make the most sense when it comes to Tampa Bay drafting a future starter?

First let’s take a look at the starters who are slated to become free agents in 2022.

Bucs’ 2022 Free Agents

WR Chris Godwin
CB Carlton Davis III
OLB Jason Pierre-Paul
DT Ndamukong Suh
TE Rob Gronkowski
TE O.J. Howard
RB Leonard Fournette
RB Ronald Jones II
C Ryan Jensen
RG Alex Cappa
DE Will Gholston
SS Jordan Whitehead

The guess here is that Godwin gets re-signed and Davis either gets a contract extension or the franchise tag in 2022. As for the rest of the future free agents, the Bucs will have to wait and see which ones are worthy of bringing back after the 2021 campaign.

Based on immediate future needs, here are the five positions the Bucs would be wise to zero in on during the 2021 NFL Draft.

Defensive Line

Texas OLB Joseph Ossai

Texas OLB Joseph Ossai – Photo by: USA Today

Tampa Bay has three prominent, aging starters who are near the end of their professional careers in Suh, Pierre-Paul and Gholston. Suh will be 35, Pierre-Paul will be 33 and Gholston will be 31 in 2022. Finding an edge rusher to eventually replace Pierre-Paul would be a good idea sooner rather than later. There are some talented pass rushers in this year’s class, but guys that may need a year or two to develop, which is fine as long as JPP stays healthy in 2021.

Texas’ Joseph Ossai, Washington’s Joe Tryon and Houston’s Payton Turner are good outside linebacker candidates early, while Miami’s Quincy Roche and Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith would be solid picks in the middle rounds.

It’s a bad year for defensive tackles, and the Bucs might be wise to punt on the position entirely in 2021. Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike, Louisiana Tech’s Milton Williams or Texas’ Bobby Brown III would be the best fits on Day 2, as would BYU’s Khyiris Tonga on Day 3 if Tampa Bay wanted a backup nose tackle behind Vita Vea.

Houston’s Payton Turner, Iowa’s Chauncey Gholston, Pittsburgh’s Rashad Weaver and Florida State’s Janarius Robinson have the size and scheme versatility to possibly replace Gholston as mid-round picks.

Tight End

Gronkowski signed a one-year deal at age 31, and Howard, the team’s first-round pick in 2017, is in his fifth-year option. Add in the fact Cameron Brate will be 31 next year and is set to make $6.8 million, and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be on the team. If Gronkowski decides to retire or not return, and if Howard can’t stay healthy, it’s not out of the question that tight end could be a pressing need sooner rather than later.

The Bucs could go from having the league’s best collection of tight ends to a barren cupboard in one year. Boston College’s Hunter Long or Ole Miss’ Kenny Yeboah could be ideal developmental prospects in the middle rounds with the potential to start in a year or two.

Running Back

North Carolina RB Javonte Williams

North Carolina RB Javonte Williams – Photo by: USA Today

With Fournette and Jones II both in contract years and with a vacancy on the roster with the departure of LeSean McCoy, the Bucs seem destined to draft a starting-caliber running back in 2021. Don’t rule out a feature back candidate like Clemson’s Travis Etienne, Alabama’s Najee Harris or North Carolina’s Javonte Williams with the team’s first pick, whether it’s at No. 32 or if the Bucs trade back in the second round. Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell might be an option after that.

In the modern day NFL it’s been proven that teams should draft running backs – not pay them. A quick look at the Rams’ and Falcons’ disastrous decision to pay Todd Gurley, and the fact that the Broncos overpaid for Melvin Gordon is proof that most running backs won’t be worth signing to a big second contract. Even the Cowboys and Panthers haven’t gotten the bang for the buck for Ezekiel Elliott and Christian McCaffrey since they’re re-signed with their respective teams.

Could Fournette or Jones return in 2022 on a cheap, one-year deal? It’s possible, as Fournette re-signed with Tampa Bay on a one-year, $3.75 million contract this year. The Bucs will need to re-sign Chris Godwin in 2022, and the star receiver likely commanding at least $16 million. Tampa Bay’s money is better spent on Godwin than Jones or Fournette next year, especially if a starting-caliber back on a cheap, rookie contract is drafted.

Inside Linebacker

Reserve Kevin Minter will be an unrestricted free agent after this year at age 32, but the Bucs only have three inside linebackers on the current roster right now. Tampa Bay will need a drafted rookie to play on special teams right away and fill out the roster, as the team will carry four linebackers. But given the fact that Minter might be playing his final year in Tampa Bay and starter Lavonte David will be 32 next year, lining up David’s eventual replacement might be wise.

Kentucky’s Jamin Davis and Purdue’s Derrick Barnes would be ideal fits early. North Carolina’s Chazz Surratt, TCU’s Garret Wallow or Boston College’s Isaiah McDuffie would be solid mid-to-late round picks.

Interior Offensive Line

Wisconsin-Whitewater C-G Quinn Meinerz

Wisconsin-Whitewater C-G Quinn Meinerz – Photo courtesy by Wisconsin-Whitewater

Jensen will be 31 next year, and Cappa might be worth more than the Bucs are willing to pay with another good season. Cappa was the only starting offensive lineman to not allow a sack in 2020. There is a chance that both return – or possibly getting Aaron Stinnie back on a cheap deal to replace Cappa if he’s worthy – but it’s also time to draft some quality depth and future starters.

Alabama’s Landon Dickerson would be a heck of a first-round pick at No. 32. The top-rated center in this year’s draft is coming off a torn ACL and Tampa Bay would be in no rush to get him on the field. The Bucs could also bolster the interior of their offensive line with the selection of Tennessee guard Trey Smith or Wisconsin-Whitewater center-guard Quinn Meinerz on Day 2 or Indiana center Harry Crider on Day 3.

FAB 4. Tampa Bay Only Has A Dozen Open Roster Spots In 2021

Just how talented is Tampa Bay’s 2021 roster? So talented that there are only about a dozen roster spots available considering the Bucs re-signed every free agent who was a starter on the team’s 2020 Super Bowl squad.

Let’s break down the current roster and see which starters are locks and which reserves are likely to make the Bucs’ 53-man roster this year. That will tell us exactly how many roster vacancies Tampa Bay will have heading into training camp after the draft.

Offensive Starters That Will Make The Roster

QB Tom Brady
RB Leonard Fournette
WR Mike Evans
WR Chris Godwin
TE Rob Gronkowski
TE O.J. Howard
LT Donovan Smith
LG Ali Marpet
C Ryan Jensen
RG Alex Cappa
RT Tristan Wirfs

Defensive Starters That Will Make The Roster

OLB Shaquil Barrett
DT Ndamukong Suh
NT Vita Vea
DE Will Gholston
OLB Jason Pierre-Paul
ILB Devin White
ILB Lavonte David
CB Carlton Davis III
CB Jamel Dean
NCB Sean Murphy-Bunting
FS Antoine Winfield, Jr.
SS Jordan Whitehead

Special Teams Starters That Will Make The Roster

K Ryan Succop
P Bradley Pinion
LS Zach Triner

That’s 26 starters – yes, we included 13 starters on defense due to the team’s heavy usage of nickel defense – that are guaranteed to make the 53-man roster. We’re about halfway to filling the Bucs’ 2021 roster already. Now let’s look at the reserve players that appear to be locks right now to make the 53-man roster as it stands right now.

Offensive Reserves That Will Make The Roster

RB Ronald Jones II
RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn
TE Cameron Brate
WR Scotty Miller
WR Tyler Johnson
OT Josh Wells
G Aaron Stinnie

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: USA Today

These seven reserves on offense push Tampa Bay’s roster to 33 players. Keep in mind that if the Bucs re-sign backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert as expected, and possibly wide receiver Antonio Brown, that number climbs to 35.

The Bucs will likely draft an offensive lineman or two this year, as the contracts for Jensen, Cappa and Stinnie expire at the end of 2021. That rookie/rookies will battle center Donnell Stanley, tackle Brad Seaton and guards Nick Leverett and John Molchon for a roster spot/spots.

Tampa Bay will also draft a running back later this month, as the contracts for Fournette and Jones are also up after this year. That means that C.J. Prosise will have an uphill battle on his hands to make the team as the team typically keeps just four running backs on the roster.

Codey McElroy and Tanner Hudson are in the mix for the fourth tight end role, and don’t rule out the Bucs drafting a tight end for competition as both Gronkowski and Howard are in the final years of their contracts.

With Evans, Godwin, Miller and Johnson the Bucs will likely only keep two more receivers, and Justin Watson, Jaydon Mickens, Cyril Grayson, Travis Jonsen and Josh Pearson are already on the roster. If Brown re-signs that will give Tampa Bay five receivers and leave just one more available roster spot. Will the Bucs draft a wide receiver for the fifth or sixth final spot, or just stand pat? We’ll have to wait and see.

Defensive Reserves That Will Make The Roster

OLB Anthony Nelson
DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches
DL Patrick O’Connor
ILB Kevin Minter
CB Herb Miller
FS Mike Edwards

Add in these six reserves that are poised to make the 53-man roster and the Bucs are at 39 players. It becomes 41 if Gabbert and Brown are re-signed. Will Tampa Bay re-sign veteran cornerback Ross Cockrell, who played well as a reserve last year? If so, the Bucs will be at 40 or 42 if Gabbert and Brown come back, too. Don’t rule out Herb Miller making the team again at cornerback, too. He’s got really good size at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and snared his first career interception at Detroit last year.

The team is also high on reserve safety Javon Hagan. But don’t rule the Bucs out when it comes to drafting a safety as Whitehead is in a contract year.

Khalil Davis’ growth was stunted during his rookie year due to the team not having a preseason. The Bucs like him, but considering he was a sixth-round pick he’s not a lock to make the team. Especially if Tampa Bay spends a high draft pick on a defensive tackle.

Bucs ILB Kevin Minter

Bucs ILB Kevin Minter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Jeremiah Ledbetter and Benning Potoa’e are current favorites to make the 53-man roster over newcomers Kobe Smith and Sam Renner. But they can’t be considered locks just yet.

With just three inside linebackers on the roster, the Bucs will surely draft one more for depth and special teams. Outside linebacker Cam Gill made the roster last year as an undrafted rookie free agent and contributed on special teams. He also snared half a sack in the Super Bowl. Yet neither he nor Quinton Bell is a lock for the roster, especially if the team drafts a linebacker early.

So with 39-42 players already assured of roster spots – depending on the fates of Gabbert, Brown and Cockrell – that means that there are only 14-17 roster spots available for the defending Super Bowl champions in 2021. I can’t remember when such few roster spots were open heading into a season.

Because the Bucs have never released a draft pick higher than a fifth-rounder (fifth-round running back Jeremy McNichols in 2017) during Licht’s tenure as general manager, the first four players Tampa Bay drafts will make the 53-man roster in 2021. That reduces the number of open roster spots even more to between 10-13 players.

With the Bucs currently having four draft picks in rounds 5-7 it might be difficult for some or all of those Day 3 selections to make Tampa Bay’s roster in 2021. This could be the year where Licht packages some of those Day 3 picks to trade up in the first round or on Day 2 for a more premium player or players. Or Licht might be in the market to trade away a Day 2 or Day 3 draft pick this year for a more premium draft pick in 2022 and begin to stockpile future picks.

FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots

BUCS LIKE CB MILLER: Bucs G.M. Jason Licht spoke with the media on Thursday and was asked which young, players he liked behind the scenes. Licht mentioned wide receiver Travis Jonsen and cornerback Herb Miller. While Jonsen was a practice squad player for Tampa Bay in 2021,

Bucs CB Herb Miller

Bucs CB Herb Miller – Photo by: USA Today

“We always want to bring in corners,” Licht said. “We really like Herb Miller and we thought Herb was really doing well in practices last year. Then he had a chance to play in Detroit and had a pick. He was doing that in practice all year. Really excited about him. We’re looking for depth at all positions, and special teams is something we want to upgrade and have some upgrades and get better at.”

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Miller went undrafted out of Florida Atlantic due to a pedestrian 4.57 time in the 40-yard dash. But he had decent production with 102 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 14 pass breakups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in four years with the Owls.

Tampa Bay has yet to re-sign veteran cornerback Ross Cockrell and might not decide to in order to give Miller more of an opportunity to impress in training camp and the preseason to make the 53-man roster.

• THE BUCS ARE STILL BEATING THE EAGLES: Spotrac had an amazing stat when it comes to the 2021 salary cap and the offseasons in Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. The Bucs were able to re-sign all of their Super Bowl starter free agents, while the Eagles traded away their former No. 1 pick in quarterback Carson Wentz.

• BUCS PRESS CONFERENCE COVERAGE ON THE PEWTER REPORT PODCASTS: The Pewter Report Podcast is energized by CELSIUS and broadcasts four live episodes each week in the offseason – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at our original 4:00 p.m. ET time slot. This week saw the Bucs have four press conferences with running back Leonard Fournette, head coach Bruce Arians, owner Joel Glazer and general manager Jason Licht. The Pewter Reporters offered up their reaction during this week’s episodes.

Here are the four latest editions of the Pewter Report Podcast to watch in case you missed an episode.

Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard and Scott Reynolds react to the re-signing of running back Leonard Fournette and Reynolds shares a previously untold story about former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman.

The Bucs officially announced their 17th game of the year this season with the Colts and Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard and Scott Reynolds react to that and Bruce Arians’ press conference.

Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard and Mark Cook break down Joel Glazer’s press conference on Wednesday’s episode.

Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard discusses his top EDGE rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft and answers questions from fans.

Watch the Pewter Report Podcasts live on our PewterReportTV channel on YouTube.com and please subscribe (it’s free) and add your comments. All of our Pewter Report Podcasts will be archived there so you can go back and watch the recorded episodes if you missed it live.

The audio versions of the Pewter Report Podcasts will can be found on iTunes and Soundcloud. There is no better time to listen to or watch a new Pewter Report Podcast – energized by CELSIUS – than Friday afternoon on the way home from work, or early Saturday morning during your workout or while running errands.

The popularity of the Pewter Report Podcast continues to grow. In addition to listening to the Pewter Report Podcasts on PewterReport.com you can also subscribe to the free podcasts at PodBean by clicking here and on SoundCloud by clicking here. And of course the Pewter Report Podcast is also available on iTunes and YouTube. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode.

• BUCS ARE DEFINITELY RELOADED: The Athletic’s Greg Auman notes just how much the Bucs offense has been reloaded with the re-signing of running back Leonard Fournette. Will Antonio Brown return too? The wide receiver’s asking price is too high right now. Stay tuned.

• SLEEPER PASS RUSHER IN 2021 DRAFT: The Buccaneers are fond of signing undrafted free agent pass rushers from small schools that either have tremendous athletic ability or great production against lesser competition. The was the case in 2019 with Khazin Daniels from Charleston and also last year with Cam Gill from Wagner and Quinton Bell from Prairie View A&M. Gill wound up making the 53-man roster as the fourth-string outside linebacker and recorded half a sack in the Super Bowl. Bell made the Bucs’ practice squad and will push Gill for a roster spot in 2021.

One small school edge rusher that Tampa Bay might have its eyes on this year is Concordia’s Chris Garrett, who has racked up 36.5 sacks in three years and set a FCS record with 15 forced fumbles. Check out the highlight tape of the 6-foot-2, 248-pound Garrett.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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eaustinyoung
5 months ago

I think OJ Howard needs to be traded while he has stock. The lemmings on here crucified me for saying that in 2019 but the fact is OJ hasn’t played a full season yet. 42 games in 4 years is not good. Brate and Gronk are way more reliable. Trading OJ could free up money to pay AB or secure a deal for Godwin on his franchise tag.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

The problem is, he tanked his stock with the Achilles injury. At most you’ll get a day 3 pick, and i don’t think that will outweigh his production in a contract year. This is ELM btw. Had to change my name because I cant let the actual Naples destroy my hometown’s good name, with his pseudo-intellectual windbaggery. Lmao

drdneast
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

They have tried to get a No. 3 for Howard before. No takers. Can you say ASJ.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

Maybe, but Howard would be a bigger failure as he was a first rounder and ASJ was drafted in the 2nd. I dont think he would get much more than a 5th or 6th, but possibly a pick swap.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

To be fair, Howard has been much better than ASJ ever was. He’s struggled to stay on the field, but so did ASJ, and Howard basically had more production in 2018 alone than ASJ did in his entire Bucs career.

Naplesfan
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

ASJ was just a very bad football player, bad attitude, lazy, and uncoachable.
OJ is just the opposite – great performer, great attitude, hard working, highly coachable. But suffered a string of serious injuries in a very violent game.

AlbJack65
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

“Pseudo-intellectual windbaggery”? That’s fucking hilarious! I’m definitely adding that phrase into my collection of smartass comments. Well done!

AlbJack65
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

Preach it brother! I’ve been banging the drum on Howard being overrated for a couple years.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

I don’t think you’d get jack for him in a trade right now. I’d rather keep him for his contract year than get back a 6th rounder or whatever. Getting out from under his salary would be tempting. But in the event that his early career has been unlucky with injuries more than anything else, which I think there’s a good chance of, I’d rather just keep him and see the sizable investment in him through to find out if he can be THE guy he’s always shown himself capable of being when healthy.

Dman
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

Been saying that since we drafted him – complete waste.

Naplesfan
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

There’s little trade value for OJ, and he’s not an expensive player to keep on the roster this year, still under his first contract. He’s a very good tight end who’s had serious injury problems which seem to plague some players more than others. If he avoids bad luck with injuries this year he could really contribute to making the Bucs even better than last year’s team. And if he gets killed again by the injury bug, then his career may well be over anyway and it costs us nothing in dead cap money.

NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

I genuinely hope the Bucs trade back in the first round. I believe Phillips won’t be within 10 picks of us, and Ojulari as well. Stockpiling picks for the future, in a draft that’s the biggest question mark of all, seems prudent. OJ needs to prove himself, but i like the upside. Imo, he’s the only guy on the roster that can still run the deep seam. Gronk is still great, but looks like he lost a step.

drdneast
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

He may have lost a step but it still hasn’t prevented him from running and trampling over DB’s who try to take him on head on.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

Or blocking youre right. I think one of the goals this offseason is about making the team complete. 3rd down rb and OJ running the seam makes sense to me.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

You’re 100% right. Gronk is STILL a great player despite losing a solid couple of steps. Which is a testament to how great he was previously. But he doesn’t scare opponents on vertical routes the way he used to. He can still make contested catches in those scenarios, but his ability to separate at a high level is down in a big way. Howard brings a level of athleticism that no other TE on the roster, and very few in the league, can offer. He’s an entirely different dimension for defenses to have to account for.

Charlie
5 months ago

SR you need to print out ALL of Fab 1 and post it all over Jon’s house with notes attached to it read, “THIS IS WHY THE TEAM IS KEEPING CAM BRATE AT $6 MILLION RIGHT NOW!” That man’s quest to get him off the team has been the most annoying argument I’ve ever from a person of higher intelligence. Cam Brate has been more valuable to this organization over the course of both his and OJ’s career. OJ can’t stay healthy and although it’s not the flashiest, Cam Brate catches lots of TDs. GROW UP JON lol

eaustinyoung
Reply to  Charlie
5 months ago

Jon sucks. I’ve been saying this for months. Some of his takes can be good, but he has some ridiculous takes in other areas.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

Our #3 TE is one of the highest paid players in the league at his position (as are both of the guys ahead of him on the depth chart). For his top 10 salary, the last THREE seasons, Brate hasn’t topped 311 receiving yards or 36 receptions. And that’s not a knock on him – it mostly comes down to a lack of opportunity, just the fact that there are better all around players ahead of him on this team. But compare his production to that of the guys making his kind of money at TE, and he’s one of… Read more »

Captain Sly
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

Can’t keep calling Brate a Luxury when every single year he’s got to step in for an injured OJ…Everyone falls in love with OJ’s potential when performance is what we need. Bucs don’t even make the playoffs solely depended on someone named Tanner Hudson, Cody McElroy, Austin Auclair or heaven forbid Joe Haeg.

aredsoxfan1
Reply to  Captain Sly
5 months ago

I am surprised Brate is still on the roster at that salary. He’s a good useful role player. You don’t need to pay $6.5mil for a role player. Half of that salary would be about his market value.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  Charlie
5 months ago

Bottom line: aside from Evans, Brate has been the longest and most reliable receiving weapon in Tampa. Great hands, smart, rarely injured, and great in the red zone. Can ANY of that be said about OJ?

toofamiliar17
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

Eh, maybe not, but there are other things you can say about OJ that you can’t say about Brate. They’re different players after all, lol. OJ is far and away the most athletic TE on the roster. He stretches the field in a way Brate physically can’t. He’s a threat after the catch that Brate has never been. He’s a plus blocker, which Brate has never been. For their careers, OJ has averaged 10.1 yards per target and 15.3 yarders per reception, vs. Brate’s much lower numbers 7.5 and 10.9. And since you brought it up, for OJ’s career, he… Read more »

Charlie
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

I mean, those minor advanced analytics don’t mean much in the field when OJ just, CAN’T stay healthy. My problem is wanting to get rid of Brate entirely. A pay cut sure…but getting rid of Brate entirely while OJ Howard, has proven NOTHING. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! In this league. Yes he’s made a few nice catches and looks good in pads. But make more than 1 contested catch a year. Get open in the red zone consistently, BLOCK CONSISTENTLY, OJ hasn’t done anything in the NFL consistently since he’s been in the league. You have other people on this team to… Read more »

Charlie
Reply to  Charlie
5 months ago

You talk about Cam Brate being the luxury the Bucs can’t afford, if OJ wasn’t under contract GUARANTEED, he might be the one we are talking about being on the block. Not Cam Brate. MORE TDs, less drops and injuries!

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Charlie
5 months ago

I mean, we could go the next 2 years without Brate and win, too. I’m not really sure what that proves. No doubt, Howard hasn’t been able to stay on the field to this point. I get wanting to keep Brate in a vacuum. But the guy is 3rd on the depth chart. Last season, when a major injury did take out a guy ahead of him, he STILL only managed 282 yards and 2 TDs. I mean, Tyreek Hill did better than that in one half against us. Think of it this way. Below are the per reception, per… Read more »

Dave
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

Could not possible agree more. Everything you’ve been saying is 100% spot on. But do yourself a favor, and save yourself from banging your head against a wall. You’ll never win this one on PR. You, like I do, think independently. You don’t just agree with everyone else. Nor do you think every move the team makes is right. So I always appreciate your comments. Because i know that you put serious thought into it, and are not swayed by what everyone else thinks. But fact remains, everyone on here has a hatred for OJ, and a fascination for Brate,… Read more »

Charlie
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

OJ is a luxury that hasn’t panned out to this point, at all. You’re being fooled by wide open plays that any majority of college players could have made if they were schemed open. You can ask Brate to take a pay cute, sure. But saying that OJ has value over Brate right now, is ridiculous. You say Brate can’t block. Ok, but OJ doesn’t do it much better and he definitely hasn’t caught the ball as consistently as Brate does. James Winston had potential, he didn’t fulfill it, he’s gone now. Vernon Hargreaves, gone. Nothing wrong with admitting that… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Charlie
5 months ago

I don’t think that it makes sense to compare a guy whose only struggle has been staying healthy to guys who were healthy but just not good enough. OJ has played at a really high level for this team for most of his career (2019 was all around terrible, no question). Jameis couldn’t get his INTs down, and Hargreaves couldn’t cover a corpse. OJ’s situation is not similar to theirs. The guy has been unlucky. It happens to some players in a sport that features dozens of car crashes every game. *shrug* And I agree with you wholeheartedly – based… Read more »

drdneast
Reply to  Charlie
5 months ago

Higher intelligence?

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

LOL

Charlie
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

Damn, I’m not ready to go that far. I still like alot of Jon’s takes and loves what he brings to the PR team. But this one just has me lost. Brate is extremely valuable.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  Charlie
5 months ago

Jon is a smart guy. Im just laughing because Dr d is an a hole lol. I would agree that Brate has easily been more valuable. Howard’s celing is still sky high though, so call me a sucker, but I’m still on the Howard finishes a season bandwagon.

Last edited 5 months ago by NaplesFan2.0
drdneast
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

Thank you. I consider that a compliment coming from someone of your background.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

You would be right sir lol

drdneast
5 months ago

We have been hearing about Howard’s “potential” for years and I for one am over it. While everyone is yakking about cutting Brate cause he is due 6.5 mill this year no one seems to have a problem about paying the same amount for a player who can’t stay healthy for a full season and whose stats don’t back up the big payday. Rumors have circulated for years the Bucs have tried to trade Howard but can’t get the third round pick they covet for him. That says a lot. Instead of asking Brate for a salary cut, which he… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

I’m guessing you weren’t aware, but OJ’s salary is fully guaranteed this season. He has 0 reason to entertain accepting a pay cut, because if we outright release him, he gets every dime he’s scheduled to get right now anyways. For players drafted 2017 and earlier, 5th year options are guaranteed for injury. The moment he tore his Achilles, releasing him became a non-option, and he had literally no reason to consider playing for less this year.

Captain Sly
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

Not entirely true! Releasing him is an option if Healthy. Jason Licht happens to be patient with his picks see; Justin Evans

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Captain Sly
5 months ago

That is incorrect. In order to have been allowed to have released him, he would have been able to have fully passed a physical on the first day of the 2021 league year (which was the first day of free agency, March 17). Howard tore his achilles on October 4. There is no way he would have been able to have passed a football physical just over 5 months after that injury. There’s some talk he won’t be 100% by training camp, much less by 4 months before that. The injury guarantee on his 5th year option locked him in… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

Who cares if you are for cutting OJ? Arians isn’t, and neither is Licht. You lose.

martinii
5 months ago

OK,, I’m old and it has been awhile since I posted on this site. About an hour ago I posted a comment and now it’s gone. Did I miss something? And if someone does read the above can you tell me the status of ERFA Zach Triner”

Bucnut2
5 months ago

Great analysis. My only change would be the fact that QB could very well be a position of need now AND definitely will be in the near future. We are one serious injury away from disaster at that position. Without Brady we probably don’t make playoffs.

drdneast
Reply to  Bucnut2
5 months ago

The same could be said for about every team in the NFL,

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Bucnut2
5 months ago

I’m with drd on this one. There’s no QB we’re going to get to back Brady up who’s likely to keep us contending for a SB should Brady go down. To me, the focus on backup QB situations is wasteful. If your QB goes down, 9.8 times out of 10, you’re up a creek no matter who steps in for him. I’m not worried about it, because no matter who we put back there under center in the event Brady’s season ends early, we’re basically done.

Captain Sly
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles, Alex Smith, couple guys from New Orleans come to mind. All made the playoffs!

Naplesfan
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

Losing TB-12 would definitely reduce our probability of repeating as champs. However, the NFL is chock full of history of backup quarterbacks and unheralded mid to late round draft pick quarterbacks everybody else discounted – including Brady himself! and not to mention Patrick Mahomes, who was a mere no. 10 pick that the rest of the NFL GM world insisted was a huge reach for Kansas City – who came in and overperformed to lead their teams to Super Bowl championships. Drew Brees. Nick Foles. Russel Wilson. And even formerly great quarterbacks who completely lost their physical skills in their… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

The only actual backup QBs to ever win Super Bowls (meaning they were not the week 1 guy and got the job due to an injury to the starter) were Nick Foles (PHI, 2017), Tom Brady (NE, 2001), and Jeff Hostetler (1990). That’s it. That’s the full list, out of 55 SB’s. And as we know, one of those guys wasn’t really a backup QB but was in fact arguably the greatest athlete in the history of American sports, lol. So really, as far as true backups, guys who we don’t KNOW were better than the starter ahead of them… Read more »

Dave
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

How many “experts” predicted the Bucs to win the SB? After they got Brady, a TON of experts did. Outside of the Chiefs, the Bucs were the most predicted SB winner by the “experts”. 3 out of 4 on GMFB predicted the Bucs to be in the SB alone. I don’t know where you were after we signed Brady, but we were the 2nd favorite to win the SB, according to experts around the league

Naplesfan
Reply to  Dave
5 months ago

Sorry, you’re full of bullshit. Name names of all those top tier football talking heads and writes who named Tampa Bay as the Super Bowl champs in 2020. At most maybe one or a couple outlier fourth tier writers picked the Bucs to win it all, out of hundreds in the media and broadcast booths. You can’t. Virtually everybody in NFL world was left scratching their heads at the Bucs signing of TB-12. The majority thought that might help Tampa win a couple more games. The vast majority picked New Orleans to win the NFC South, and then go on… Read more »

Spitfire
5 months ago

Scott, Jon, Mark, whoever, it seems in a 3-4 Defense the Dline is mainly to clog the lanes while you attack from either or both sides with the OLB. Do you guys think Anthony Nelson could play D/E in place of Gholston in the future? He may not be the most talented OLB but he seems to have the size or at least the ability to have the size if needed to play D/E.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Spitfire
5 months ago

There’s a lot more to defending the run at a high level than being big. And Nelson isn’t even all that especially big, checking in 10 pounds slimmer than Gholston and 36 pounds lighter than Suh. He’s just not good, unfortunately. If we draft or sign a veteran OLB, I actually would be a little surprised if he makes the team at all this year. He’s more likely to be looking for a new career come this September than he is to ever play a significant role for any team in the NFL.

Charlie
5 months ago

I’m telling you right now, since Cam Brate isn’t already gone. He’s gonna be on this football team. And it’s because other than the salary cap, not much has changed at the TE position from last year. 2, 1 year deal guys, 1 who is a HOF can play as long as he wants, and OJ Howard who hasn’t proven anything in the NFL consistently…and Cam Brate who is Top 5 in TDs by a TE since he came into the league. Jason Licht is awesome, GO BUCS!

scubog
5 months ago

I think there’s a saying, “They shoot horses don’t they?” Here in Bucville it seems that as soon as a player heads to the infirmary, his clock starts ticking. If he’s in there too many times or remains past the limit of some fans’ patience, they’re ready to give him the Jimmy Hoffa treatment. We don’t drag a four year old luxury car to the junk yard because it has a flat tire and has been a bit of a lemon. At least wait until the lease expires. Yes, overall O.J. has been a disappointment. Not because he lacked skills,… Read more »

Captain Sly
Reply to  scubog
5 months ago

Too funny! “Shoot Horses” OJ must be the horse that won’t stay down because if true for injury we shot him in 2017’ and shot him again once injured in 2018’ 2019’ & 2020’. OJ has nine lives. Lol Funny

Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
5 months ago

Most of the fans who comment here are loudmouthed idiots. Fact. Impatient, ignorant, know-it-alls who pretend they are all in the know, can predict who will be a baller and who won’t; pretend to know what’s going on in confidential contract negotiations; get down on a player because he got injured’ or because he made a dumb error in his personal life; or is “too nice to opposing players;” or took too long in contract negotiations; or is too old or too young or too expensive or too something or other. Apply the same standards to the know it alls… Read more »

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

I see a couple problems with this comment. I think the first thing that jumps off the page is, that this IS NOT any occupation in life. This is the NFL and it is a privilege to play in it for the players, and not a right. They are all held to a different standard, as they are role models in a community. People with multiple offenses should have 0 opportunities left, AB first among them. Secondly, I have absolutely no idea how anyone, who is a foul-mouthed windbag, can call anyone a loudmouthed idiot without reviewing their own behavior… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

Deuce: It sure is funny how folks don’t apply the same rules for life in themselves as they do for others. My wife of 51 years often asks me a question from a different room, then when I respond, scolds me for talking to her from a different room. I think that’s the old parental, “do as I say, not as I do”. Big word of the day…….”hypocritical”. Hard to call someone a “loudmouth” from typed words unless they are using too many capital letters or exclamation points. Don’t you just hate that? I suspect the original Naples is referencing… Read more »

Dave
Reply to  scubog
5 months ago

Omg i remember Buc Fan47 lol. He was something else. But I completely agree. There are too many people in here that will get all bent out of shape anytime someone has an opinion that isn’t in line with what the team thinks, or what the consensus opinion of that particular article is. Like who cares. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That’s why it’s called an opinion. If it was something factual based, that would be different. That’s what reading and posting in articles is about. Different people with different opinions. Sometimes people will be right, sometimes people… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Dave
NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  scubog
5 months ago

I hear you Scu. I guess I’m just partial to being respectful of others. I remember having a huge debate with Dave about Vea over Derwin, and Jensen over Scherrf a couple years ago, and not once in our 70 to 80 comment debate was any name calling used, or disrespect uttered. Common courtesy sometimes, is not so common. You need a straight man for some of these posts bud lol. Frickin hilarious.

scubog
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

Thanks Deuce. I do try to inject a little humor with a sprinkle of sarcasm into my daily routine.

Dave
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

Exactly! It’s not asking much. Not everyone is going to agree on things. There’s nothing wrong with 2 people having 2 completely different, albeit passionate opinions on things. I can totally accept being wrong on a player or prediction. I’ve made plenty of great predictions, and plenty of bad ones. Doesn’t stop me from having an opinion though. NF2, I also remember my heated debate of Devin White vs Josh Allen/Ed Oliver around that time as well. Same thing though, never any swears or name calling. For as much as I severely disagree with a lot of what he says,… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Dave
Dman
5 months ago

Hope we resign Cockrell, he was solid off the bench, though I really don’t have a feel for Miller. Also fed up with the potential of Howard. No way I pay that guy $6.0mm. For all the Trade-Brate-Cheerleaders out there, all the guy does is produce. Give him more PT and targets and his stats will follow.

Naplesfan
5 months ago

Well, this is OJ’s final year on his first contract. So it is certainly in his best interests to be a baller this year. Not sure how to avoid injuries like his ripped achilles tendon last season. Sometimes bad luck seems to go in phases for a lot of people. But Arians and Licht don’t have any complaints about his skills or his attitude or his work ethic or his coachability, and he hasn’t gotten in any trouble off the field. OJ is certainly due for better luck with injuries this year than he has been in the past. No… Read more »

SoberInSac
5 months ago

I really like Trask dude has a cannon and some wheels. He could develop under the best ever for a couple seasons and become our starter. Or he becomes a highly valueD tradable asset. My favorite player in the draft is jeremiah owusu koramoah I really really hope he falls to us.

a-bomb
5 months ago

As I understand it, as a first round pick, if OJ is signed by another team after next season as a FA then the Bucs will receive a 3rd round compensatory pick. So, they are not going to trade him for anything less. As far as Jon’s arguments about Brate, his point is simple: as a #3 TE he is too expensive. That is probably true. But the Bucs seem to see OJand Brate as #2a and #2b TEs. So, it really is more of a philosophical difference. Is it a luxury? Of course. But Licht has made it work… Read more »

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