The NFL trade deadline is just five days away, and the Patriots have already made some big changes to their offense this week and may be looking to make some more. Prior to the trade for receiver Mohamed Sanu, their were reports that said the Patriots were also inquiring about Buccaneers’ tight end, OJ Howard. Apparently, the Patriots have not quite given up in their pursuit for Howard. The Patriots currently have four tight ends on their roster in Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, and Eric Tomlinson. The Patriots even announced the release of Tomlinson on Wednesday around 11:00am but never officially filed his release because of the sudden decision to place Josh Gordon on IR.
The tight ends that the Patriots have on their current roster are a tremendous drop off from Rob Gronkowski, who is a future hall of fame and was one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets throughout his nine year career with the Patriots. LaCosse and Izzo have been dealing with injuries in recent weeks and Tomlinson, who was brought onto the team last week, is still trying to find his footing in the complex New England offense. Watson is a good, veteran tight end to have on the team, but it may be asking too much to rely on the 38 year old to be the number one tight end throughout the course of the season.
Howard is struggling this year with Tampa Bay but the team has not shown a willingness to trade him. He has struggled with drops a lot this year, and last week’s performance which included two drops did not help his case. Howard was highly sought after coming out of the draft after an impressive college campaign at Alabama. He is fast for his size, he is a decent run blocker, but just needs to improve on catching the ball.
If the Patriots were to go after Howard, what could they offer the Bucs? Michael Bennett, who was suspended last week for a behavior issue, is not as involved in the Patriots‘ defense as he would like to be. He is not a good fit for the Patriots‘ 3-4 defense, and has seen minimal time on the field because of that. Earlier this week, Bennett was asked if he is happy in New England. His response was “it is what it is”. He did not seem eagerly thrilled with his current position on the team and would probably not be overly upset if he were traded. Belichick could put a package deal together that included Bennett, Tomlinson, or a pick. This is where Belichick’s philosophy of stockpiling draft picks comes in handy. The Patriots generally draft late in rounds and Belichick likes to trade those draft picks away for multiple later picks. I still see this as unlikely, but I’m sure Brady would welcome any improvement to the offense. One thing we know about Belichick is he is always looking to improve.