Former first-rounder O.J. Howard changes course, joins Texans after he was expected to sign with Bengals

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Former first-round tight end O.J. Howard won't be signing with the Cincinnati Bengals after all. Howard changed course Thursday, instead opting to sign with the Houston Texans, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Howard visited the Bengals on Wednesday, and reports emerged suggesting he would sign with the team. Howard apparently held off on signing and decided to meet with the Texans on Thursday. A deal came together quickly, and Howard decided to join Houston over Cincinnati.

It's unclear why Howard decided to change course. The Bengals were awarded former New England Patriots tight end Devin Asiasa on a waiver claim Wednesday, and maybe that influenced Howard to look elsewhere.

The Texans kept three tight ends on their 53-man. Of that group, only Pharaoh Brown has more than a year of NFL experience under his belt. The team is expected to start second-year tight end Brevin Jordan, but Howard could play his way into some snaps.

Injuries have held back O.J. Howard

Howard entered the NFL with major expectations after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him with the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He showed flashes during his first three seasons in the league, but was limited by foot and ankle injuries.

Howard was expected to emerge after Tom Brady joined the team in 2020, but the addition of Rob Gronkowski complicated matters. Howard then tore his Achilles four weeks into the season and missed the rest of the year. He returned to the Buccaneers in 2021 and had 14 catches for 135 yards and 1 touchdown.

Howard signed with the Buffalo Bills in the offseason, but failed to stand out in preseason games. The team released Howard on Tuesday, paving the way for him to join the Texans.

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - JUNE 15: O.J. Howard #8 of the Buffalo Bills makes a catch during Bills mini camp on June 15, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - JUNE 15: O.J. Howard #8 of the Buffalo Bills makes a catch during Bills mini camp on June 15, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images)