I had operated under the assumption this offseason that the Texans' tight end situation was an either-or scenario.
But having released Daniels on Tuesday, the Texans are also facing the prospect of losing Graham, who is far from a sure thing to be re-signed at this point.
Yesterday Graham characterized negotiations between his people and the Texans as "slow." Graham hit the market yesterday without a deal in place with the Texans. The tight end market as a whole has been slow and could pick up today, now that the first wave of signings is out of the way.
If it happens, losing Graham could mean a very young group of tight ends in Houston. Ryan Griffin showed promise last year, but he'd be a second-year player expected to take a huge jump. The most veteran of the group would be Zach Potter, who the Texans signed last month. Potter spent 2009 to 2012 with the Jaguars. And I could see them adding another drafted tight end in what's not an especially deep tight end draft class. (Depth is in the eye of the beholder, though. After all, Griffin's ability doesn't match a sixth rounder's.)
Or it could mean adding someone new to the mix, like former Detroit tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The Lions worked on a long-term deal with Pettigrew before the last league year ended, but couldn't reach a deal. They even considered using the franchise tag, according to the Detroit Free Press, but ultimately decided to let him test free agency.
He's a tight end who prides himself on his blocking ability, something Griffin has admitted needs work in his game. Some background from a recent story on the tight end:
What makes Pettigrew different is he has a positive reputation within the league for his inline blocking ability, which figures to intrigue some team enough for him to cash in on a multiyear deal within days of the market opening at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“He’s one of the best all-around tight ends, from a blocking and receiving standpoint,” one NFL personnel director told USA TODAY Sports. The executive spoke on condition of anonymity for competitive reasons. “He will have drops (in the passing game). But they also didn’t use him.”
Pettigrew’s 41 catches in 2013 were the fewest since his rookie season in 2009, as the Lions turned to halfbacks Reggie Bush and Joique Bell as the primary complements to all-world receiver Calvin Johnson.
There are options, though the Texans figure to be thrifty. It wouldn't make much sense for them to save $4.5 million in cap space by releasing Daniels, only to fill most of that back up with a new tight end's salary. One way or another, though, the Texans still have a while before all of this has to be figured out.