HOUSTON – It was obvious the Texans needed reinforcements at tight end.
That’s why they signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round draft pick O.J. Howard to a one-year contract with a maximum value in the $4 million range, according to a league source.
Howard visited the Texans on Thursday, took a physical and quickly agreed to terms after previously visiting the Cincinnati Bengals after being cut by the Buffalo Bills.
The Texans placed rookie tight end Teagan Quitoriano on injured reserve with a knee injury with a league source saying he’s expected to return within the first half of the season.
The Texans have only starter Pharaoh Brown, second-year player Brevin Jordan and Howard as their tight ends on the 53-man roster with tight ends Jordan Akins, a former Texans starter, and Mason Schreck on the practice squad along with fullback-tight end Paul Quessenberry. The Texans tried to trade for Miami Dolphins tight end Adam Shaheen, but the trade was nullified when he failed a physical due to a knee injury and he was placed on the Miami’s injured reserve list after reverting to their roster. Tight end Antony Auclair missed the entire preseason with a knee injury and was released.
Brown is recovering well from a hamstring injury and is expected to be ready for the first game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts, according to a league source.
“As a general rule, we never stop looking to upgrade our roster, tight end position, all positions,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “I can understand we’ve had a few injuries. That’s the one position that injuries have taken a toll a little bit. We still like the people that we have right now and we’re going to dress at least three guys on game day. We’ll feel good about the three that we dress.”
Howard lost ground behind Quintin Morris and Tommy Sweeney in Buffalo. He did score a touchdown in a win over the Denver Broncos, but it wasn’t enough to secure a roster spot on a squad headlined by Dawson Knox, their veteran starter. Howard caught 14 passes for 135 yards and one touchdown last season for the Buccaneers. He has 119 career receptions for 1,737 yards and 15 touchdowns.
A former third-round draft pick, Akins was cut by the New York Giants after joining them during the offseason as a free agent.
Akins had 24 receptions for 214 yards on 33 targets in 13 games and three starts last season for the Texans.
Akins has 114 career receptions for 1,260 yards and three touchdowns.
Two seasons ago, Akins caught 37 passes for 403 yards and one touchdown.
Akins is already impressing in his first practice back with the Texans, making several outstanding catches.
“Sometimes you go your separate ways and if we get a chance to work together again, we’d like that,” Smith said. “That’s the case with Jordan. We talked about the tight end position and where we are with it. He was available and it made sense to us. It made sense to him too. Again, we’re always try to improve, and we thought he’d been a good fit for us. We’re excited about him being back.”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com