The Cincinnati Bengals moved quickly to bolster the tight end position, as O.J. Howard is visiting with the team and is expected to sign pending a physical (per NFL Network). Howard was released by the Buffalo Bills prior to final roster cutdowns Tuesday, but appears to have quickly found work in Cincinnati.
Already guaranteed $3.195 million in Buffalo, the Bills released Howard thanks to the emergence of Tommy Sweeney and Quintin Morris as backup tight ends behind Dawson Knox. Morris offered more versatility than Howard at tight end, being able to line up in the dirt, at receiver and fullback while being a prime special teams contributor.
Howard didn’t offer much in the preseason, catching just three passes for 16 yards. A ruptured Achilles that limited Howard to just four games in 2020 affected his ability to make plays in 2021, catching just 14 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown last year. Howard has 119 catches for 1,737 yards and 15 touchdowns in five seasons, but has just four scores since the start of the 2019 campaign.
The Bengals are expected to slot Howard as the No. 2 tight end behind Hayden Hurst. Another former first-round pick, Hurst had 26 catches for 221 yards and three touchdowns in a reserve role for the Atlanta Falcons last season behind Kyle Pitts. Howard could challenge Hurst for first-team reps in Cincinnati.
Third-year tight end Drew Sample is also in the mix for snaps. Sample finished with 11 catches for 81 yards and no touchdowns last year and was slotted as the No. 2 tight end behind Hurst during the preseason.
Howard’s expected signing significantly improves the tight end position for the Bengals while giving quarterback Joe Burrow another option in the passing game. Cincinnati is looking to replace C.J. Uzomah’s production after he signed with the New York Jets in free agency.