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Trade Idea: Malik Hooker for O.J. Howard

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots former player Ty Law before Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Gronk is back, and he has a new team. On Tuesday, April 21st, 2020 the news broke early in the day that Rob Gronkowski, after being retired for over a year, wanted to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His old QB Tom Brady had recently signed with Bucs. Before we could contemplate the idea of Gronk coming back, the Patriots brokered a trade of Gronk and a 7th round pick to the Bucs for a 4th round pick. With the deal complete there is now a log jam of tight ends on the Bucs roster with Gronk, Cameron Brate, and the polarizing O.J. Howard.

See related article: Jordan Love Isn’t The Guy

While the Gronkowski news was coming to a head, there was more news that dropped quietly at the same time. That news was the fact that other NFL teams had begun calling Colts GM Chris Ballard inquiring about the availability of their ball-hawking safety Malik Hooker. It eventually became clear that teams were calling about Malik Hooker, not the other way around. That likely means that in order for the Colts to deal Malik Hooker it will have to be a deal that blows them away. O.J. Howard can definitely do that.

O.J. Howard to the Colts

The good news is both teams have a need in the position that the other can help fill. In Indianapolis, the departure of Eric Ebron has left them with a hole at the tight end position. Especially considering the Colts run quite a bit of 12 formations. The Colts do have Jack Doyle who is a do-it-all pro bowl tight end. However, they lack a game-breaker that Eric Ebron became during his tenure with the Colts. O.J. Howard would fit that role perfectly.

Howard was drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft, the same year Malik Hooker was also taken in the first round. The 6’6 251 pounds tight end ran a 40 time of 4.51 which made him an immediate red zone target with great speed. After exploding onto the scene in 2018, Howard was expected to make the leap in 2019. It didn’t happen. Honestly, because he wasn’t utilized properly. Bruce Arians’ system relies almost exclusively on inline tight ends and three-wide receiver sets. This led to Howard being utilized in the slot and out wide significantly less than previous years. That would change with the Colts.

In order to grasp what O.J. Howard would do with the Colts, we need to look at the man he will be replacing, Eric Ebron. During the 2019 season, Eric Ebron lined up 152 times in the slot, 102 times inline, 69 times out wide, and twice in the backfield. As you can see Ebron spent most of his snaps in the slot. We would expect similar usage for Howard. This would allow Howard to have his talents properly utilized and he could develop into the force he was on his way to becoming.

Malik Hooker to the Bucs

The Bucs, in return for O.J. Howard, would get a ball-hawking starting safety in Malik Hooker. Hooker has had trouble dealing with injuries to this point in his career. However, when healthy, Hooker is as lethal as any safety in the league. Just watch the video above. After that game, Philip Rivers stated that he saw Hooker there, he just didn’t think he could get to the ball. The two safeties on the Bucs roster that saw the most playing time in 2019 are Mike Edwards and Jordan Whitehead. Both of those players ranked 76th/88 and 87th/88 in PFF grades among the safety position. The Bucs also had Andrew Adams, who ranked 63rd/88. Malik Hooker would be a massive upgrade. Hooker ranked 37th/88 comparatively.

The reason this would work out well for the Bucs is their clearly win-now attitude. They have Tom Brady for two years and are going to attempt to win two super bowls during that time. This trade would give them a massive upgrade at their safety position and would only cost them a tight end they don’t really want. Trading for Malik Hooker would also fill a hole in their defense that would allow them to focus heavily on the other trouble spots on the roster. Furthermore, Hooker will be on his 5th-year option meaning the Bucs would have an underpaid asset for at least one season.

The Colts meanwhile, can afford to lose Hooker. George Odum (67.3) and Khari Willis (69.5) ranked equally as well as Hooker (69.5) did. This means that the Colts can likely afford to trade him to the Bucs without losing much production.

Conclusion

This deal makes too much sense for both sides. The Colts need a dynamic receiving tight end. The Bucs need to upgrade their safety position and Malik Hooker would do that immediately. Both teams would get what they need and it would give each of these players a much-needed change of scenery.

Follow me on Twitter @sfgiantsera for more news and notes, and check out the main account at @OT_Heroics!

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Jacob Taylor
Sports Writer for Overtime Heroics workkng on the beat for NFL and MLB.
https://www.overtimeheroics.net/
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