Should Patriots trade for O.J. Howard? That's a tough question

Should Patriots trade for O.J. Howard? That's a tough question

The Patriots can't afford to waste their draft picks this year. 

So with the news that O.J. Howard, a tight end who had two good seasons after being chosen in the first round in 2017, is on the trade block, the Patriots should have a lot of thinking and deliberating to do. 

Former Patriots staffer/current everything-he-says-might-have-some-sort-of-Patriots-angle-er Mike Lombardi said Wednesday that the Bucs are "trying to trade" Howard and that they only held onto him at the trade deadline last season because their asking price of a second-round pick was not met. 

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So if they couldn't get a second rounder then, it stands to reason they won't now. The Patriots have three late thirds, so perhaps if another team offers a third, it will be higher than New England's. Let's put the price at a third (No. 87) and the late fourth the Pats have from the Bears (No. 125). 

On one hand, it could be a coup. With one first-round pick and no second, the idea of filling your biggest need without touching a pick in either round is splendid. This isn't a strong class at tight end, and the Patriots are currently in a position where it would appear moving down and drafting the best one in the class (Notre Dame's Cole Kmet) might be their best play.

That all assumes Howard gives you something, though. By the end in Tampa, he was not. That opens the discussion of whether that was on him, Bruce Arians or Jameis Winston. 

As a rookie, Howard had 26 catches for 432 yards and six touchdowns over four games. He looked to be on the path to stardom with his second season, catching 34 passes for 565 yards and five touchdowns in just 10 games before Week 11 foot/ankle injuries ended his season. He was on pace for over 900 yards and eight touchdowns as a second-year player. 

Then the Bucs hired Bruce Arians and Howard fell off the map.

The Bucs just stopped throwing to him. Howard ended up catching only 34 passes over 14 games, which tied what he did in 10 games the year prior. His receiving yards (459) and touchdowns (just one) were also down from his injury-shortened second season. 

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And if you're thinking, "well, maybe it's an Arians thing," you've got ammunition. He clearly didn't trust Howard. 

In Week 11 against the Saints, with Howard having caught just 17 passes on the season, he gave away a first-quarter target for a comically horrible interception. He did not see another pass the rest of the game. 

"It's hard to say," Arians said later when asked about Howard's season. "He's a talented, talented guy, but it's not showing up on Sundays."

The assumption here was that Tom Brady would be chomping at the bit to have Howard and Cameron Brate for tight ends after having nothing at the position last season in New England. It would seem he's taking Arians' word for it that they're better off without Howard. 

So if you're the Patriots, are you giving up something like a third and a fourth for two years of a first-round talent? I would.

I think it's worth the risk, but there is no questioning that it is a risk.  

NFL opt outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Six New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (Aug. 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (Aug. 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (Aug. 2)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB CJ Mosley (Aug. 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)

Julian Edelman shows Tom Brady love on ex-Patriots QB's 43rd birthday

Julian Edelman shows Tom Brady love on ex-Patriots QB's 43rd birthday

Tom Brady and Julian Edelman are no longer teammates, but they're very much still friends.

Brady celebrated his 43rd birthday Monday as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an NFL first for the quarterback after 20 years with the New England Patriots.

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Edelman, who spent 11 seasons as Brady's teammate in New England, used his Instagram story to shout out his former QB with some heartfelt well wishes.

Edelman seemingly is eager to prove he's not just "a product of Brady" after the QB helped him amass a career-high 1,117 receiving yards last season.

The 34-year-old wide receiver also has been working out with new Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, so he's certainly not dwelling on the past.

Then again, he and Brady developed an incredibly close bond as Patriots teammates and won three Super Bowl titles together, and that bond hasn't broken despite Brady migrating to Tampa Bay.