Monday, March 20, 2006 Updated: March 22, 9:37 AM ET
Texans expand TE opportunities by adding Putzier
By Len Pasquarelli ESPN.com
The Houston Texans, who have rarely thrown the ball to the tight end the past two seasons, on Monday evening found an excuse to start doing so again.
ESPN.com learned that the Texans have reached agreement with free agent tight end Jeb Putzier, who was released by the Denver Broncos for salary cap reasons two weeks ago, on a four-year contract. The deal is worth $7.5 million and includes a signing bonus of $1.85 million.
Putzier, 27, will be reunited in Houston with first-year head coach Gary Kubiak, who was his offensive coordinator in Denver, and who pushed hard for the Texans to sign the four-year veteran. Putzier had drawn interest from several other teams, including the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles after his release. The Jets had actually signed him to a restricted free agent offer sheet last spring, but the Broncos matched it and retained him.
A former Boise State standout, and a sixth-round pick in the 2002 draft, Putzier will provide the Texans a vertical dimension at tight end that the team has never possessed before. And with Kubiak calling the shots on offense, the tight end figures to become a viable element again in the Texans' passing game.
Although he played rarely in his first two seasons in the league, Putzier blossomed in 2004 as a player who could run up the seam and split the safeties. In 2004, he had 36 catches for 572 yards. The three tight ends on the Houston roster totaled just 22 catches for 232 yards that season. In 2005, Putzier posted 37 catches for 481 yards, while the Texans' contingent of tight ends had a collective 33 catches for 216 yards.
Putzier's average of 14.4 yards per catch over the last two seasons ranks among the top five in the NFL over that stretch. The lone downside to Putzier is that he is only an adequate blocker and struggles to move defenders off the line of scrimmage.
But one of Houston's offseason priorities was to provide beleaguered quarterback David Carr with more playmakers, and with some vertical options, and the acquisition of Putzier certainly addresses that goal. In 39 appearances, Putzier has 77 receptions for 1,087 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.