Tight end O.J. Howard, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-round draft pick in 2017, had a promising rookie campaign and was in the midst of a breakout sophomore year, but each of his first two NFL seasons ended early.
On Tuesday, the Buccaneers placed Howard on injured reserve after he suffered foot and ankle injuries while being tackled awkwardly at the end of a 24-yard catch-and-run against the New York Giants on Sunday. Howard missed the last two games of his rookie season after he suffered an ankle injury in Week 15.
Tampa Bay used the subsequent opening on its 53-man roster to sign Josh Shaw, a versatile and experienced defensive back who was most recently with the Kansas City Chiefs in October. The Bucs also filled the opening on the practice squad created by last week's promotion of rookie safety Godwin Igwebuike to bring back rookie defensive end Demone Harris.
Before seeing his season come to a premature end, Howard racked up 565 yards and five touchdowns on 34 catches, averaging a robust 16.6 yards per grab. One of just five tight ends with 500 or more receiving yards through Week 11, Howard ranked third in the NFC in that category behind Philadelphia's Zach Ertz and San Francisco's George Kittle. The Bucs' rising star is also one of only five tight ends in the NFL with at least five touchdown catches so far this season, and he's tied with Ertz and Chicago's Trey Burton for the NFC lead in that category at the position.
The Buccaneers' tight end position still features Cam Brate, who had 105 catches and 14 touchdowns over the previous two seasons combined before putting up a 17-159-3 line through 10 games this year. Brate is joined on the Bucs' depth chart by Antony Auclair, who has played extensively, primarily as a blocker, and Alan Cross, who frequently lines up in the backfield as a lead blocker.
Shaw (6-1, 200) first entered the league as a fourth-round draft pick out of USC by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015. He played three seasons in Cincinnati, appearing in 47 games with 14 starts and recording 96 tackles, one interception and seven passes defensed. Shaw started 12 games in 2016, when he played both cornerback and safety, and he has experience both on the outside and in the slot.
Shaw went back to camp with the Bengals this summer but was waived in the final roster cuts after sustaining a thigh injury. He later signed with the Chiefs in October and played in four games before being waived this Monday. The Bucs signed Shaw after he cleared waivers on Tuesday.
Harris split the first 10 weeks of this season between the Buccaneers' practice squad and active roster, appearing in two games. He was waived last week when the team promoted Godwin.