Along with wide receivers and the front seven, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have some of the best depth in the entire NFL at the tight end position. The addition of Rob Gronkowski was a stunner but what does that mean for guys like O. J. Howard? Cameron Brate? Do Antony Auclair and Tanner Hudson both have a shot anymore? Here are some storylines to watch for if/when Training Camp starts for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
How Many Tight Ends Make the Final 53?
Last season, the Buccaneers started the year with four tight ends on the 53 man roster: OJ Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, and Tanner Hudson. It is guaranteed that Rob Gronkowski will make the team. Therefore, unless the Buccaneers keep five tight ends on an opening day 53 man roster (which hasn’t been done since the 2011 Packers), they will cut one of these players.
Tanner Hudson or Antony Auclair?
Auclair helps himself out a lot in that he is an overall solid blocking tight end. He does not have the play-making ability that Hudson possesses, but considering the Buccaneers already have three other tight ends who can go up and get the ball, I believe Auclair will get the nod over Tanner Hudson.
Tom Brady’s Harmony with the New Guys
We have all seen the chemistry shared by Brady and Gronkowski with their time in New England. Now we will get to see if that will translate with his new weapons. After a down year by Howard, I now consider Cameron Brate as the third tight end on the roster. In an offense that did not use tight ends all that much last season, will Tom Brady be able to bring this position back to life in Tampa Bay? I will say absolutely!
Opposing defenses are well aware that Tom Brady is equipped with one of the best offenses he has ever had. Wide receivers will probably get a lot of attention from defensive backs, as they should, so the tight end position should be ready to fire away.
Potential Practice Squad Players
Whether the Buccaneers keep three, four, or even five tight ends on the roster, it is never a terrible idea to have a tight end on the practice squad. Some potential options would be: Tanner Hudson (if he does not make the team.) Jordan Leggett, or Codey McElroy.
After flashing major potential last preseason, Hudson was silent in the 2019 regular season. In fact, he was inactive over half of last season. I truly believe he deserves a spot on an NFL roster, so if the Buccaneers offer him a practice squad spot, and he declines to go to another team, I would not blame him.
Leggett is entering his fourth season in the league. He played 15 games with the Jets in 2018, but other than that has not seen the field. There is a lot to like about his 6’5, 260 pound build, so that may be worth keeping him around in case anyone gets injured.
McElroy had a very impressive 30-yard reception against the Texans in Week 16 last season. He was originally on the practice squad last year and was called to the active roster once Auclair was put on IR. I could see him finding a spot on the practice squad again this season. In fact, of these three options, I think he would be most likely.
There is a problem with the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end group, but it is a good one to have. There is so much talent that it is difficult to have to cut some of these guys. My final prediction for the Week One tight end is:
- Rob Gronkowski
- OJ Howard
- Cameron Brate
- Antony Auclair