It was reported on Wednesday, and relayed by us accordingly, that the Cincinnati Bengals were bringing in former first-round tight end O.J. Howard with the intention of signing him. He signed with the Houston Texans yesterday, having never made that visit.
It’s not clear if he canceled the visit himself or if the team did, but the Bengals ended up being awarded tight end Devin Asiasi off of waivers from the New England Patriots. As Jeremy Fowler noted on Twitter for ESPN, “talks fell through” between the two parties, resulting in there never being a visit in the first place.
So Howard will not be Joe Burrow’s new target, but he still does get a new tight end in Asiasi, who was a third-round draft pick out of UCLA in 2020 by the Patriots. To date, he has only played in 10 career games, including just one in 2021, with two career receptions for 39 yards and one touchdown.
Asiasi had a breakout junior year for UCLA in 2019, catching 44 passes for 641 yards and four touchdowns, after having just eight receptions in his first two years. The 25-year-old is slightly short but overall has the prototypical size of a tight end, with solid athletic numbers.
Poor fortunes in terms of health played a big role in him struggling to achieve his potential while in New England, but the Patriots also invested heavily in the tight end position in free agency last year. Yet they currently only have Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith—their 2021 signings—on the roster, along with two rookie or first-year tight ends on the practice squad.
Howard was drafted 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017, but he is another player who has struggled to stay healthy. He has only played in 58 games during his five-year career, limited to only four games in 2020.
The 2021 season was the first of his career in which he didn’t miss a game, starting nine of 17 for the Buccaneers, but he caught only 14 passes for 135 yards and one touchdown. He ceded the starring tight end role to future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski for the past two seasons, but Cameron Brate also emerged during his time there.
The Bengals currently have four tight ends on their 53-man roster, with Drew Sample and Haydn Hurst topping the depth chart. Asiasi joins Mitchell Wilcox to round out the group, but Hurst and Sample figure to command the bulk of the snaps there.