The New England Patriots reportedly are doing their due diligence to address a glaring need ahead of the NFL trade deadline.

The Patriots contacted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers about a trade for tight end O.J. Howard but were turned down, Albert Breer of the MMQB reported Monday morning.

Howard, who turns 25 in November, tallied 565 receiving yards and five touchdowns last season and is the kind of talented pass-catcher New England desperately needs.

The Patriots enter Monday night's game against the New York Jets with only two active tight ends -- 38-year-old Ben Watson and recent free-agent pickup Eric Tomlinson -- after injuries to Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo and have been thin at the position since Rob Gronkowski's retirement in April.

There are other tight ends on the market, though, and Breer added he expects the Patriots to do more shopping ahead of the Oct. 29 trade deadline.

The defending Super Bowl champs also could pursue the likes of Tyler Eifert and Austin Hooper, who are stuck on bottom-dwellers in Cincinnati and Atlanta, respectively.

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