3 free agent tight ends the Cleveland Browns could affordably add

Vikings, Irv Smith Jr. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Vikings, Irv Smith Jr. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) /
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Texans, O.J. Howard. . (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

Browns free agent TE option No. 2: O.J. Howard

A former first-round pick out of Alabama, O.J. Howard never lived up to his expectations. He spent the first five seasons of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he was unable to surpass Cameron Brate on the depth chart.

Howard became less involved in the offense when Rob Gronkowski joined and while he has a Super Bowl ring, he managed to play in just four games that season due to a torn Achilles. He returned in 2021 and played all 17 games but had just 14 receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown.

From there, he hit the open market and landed with the Buffalo Bills on a one-year deal. This seemed like a perfect match given his talent as a pass-catcher — as well as his 4.5 speed — but it wound up being a poor fit and he was released before the season began.

Once he was on the open market, rumors suggested the Browns were going to go after Howard but they never got the chance as he quickly signed with the Texans.

Again, Howard underperformed which was disappointing since he had a phenomenal debut. In Week 1 for the Texans, he had two receptions for 38 yards — with both going for a touchdown. He didn’t score again for the rest of the season and had just eight more receptions.

Even with the numbers being what they are, Howard has all the talent in the world. Perhaps landing in Cleveland where he can play across from Njoku in a tight end-friendly offense is what he needs to finally make good on his athleticism.