The Houston Texans began the 2013-2014 NFL season with Super Bowl aspirations. By the end of the year, they were ready to move on from the dumpster fire of a season and look forward to a new beginning. There were very few bright spots from the season that could be recalled. Yes, J.J. Watt was still a one man wrecking crew and one of the best defensive players in the league (if not the best player in the entire NFL). Andre Johnson proved that his age should not be held against him while finishing 7th in the league in total receiving yards (1,407). Even Randy Bullock finished the season making twelve straight field goals after a horrendous start to the season (the fact that this is a bright spot sums up what this season was like). While there were few bright spots, there were enough negatives to put a radiologist out of business. I do not even want to discuss the quarterback situation. Brian Cushing, Danieal Manning, Arian Foster, and Owen Daniels, all key contributors of the team, were lost for the season at some point. The Texans could not close out a game, finishing with an NFL-worst 2-9 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. Gary Kubiak, the former head coach of the Texans, passed out on the sidelines before halftime of the game vs. the Indianapolis Colts and took a brief hiatus from the team and returned only to get fired. There were players who did not live up to preseason expectations: Matt Schaub, Antonio Smith, Jonathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, etc. However, one player in particular was expected to make a big jump with the season-ending injury to Owen Daniels: Garrett Graham.
Graham, who started the season on a tear with three touchdowns, only scored two more the rest of the year even though he was playing as the starting tight end. He did have a game vs. the Oakland Raiders that was quite impressive (7 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown), but the rest of the year, he was average. Although Graham was a beneficiary of having Owen Daniels on the field at the same time, many expected Graham to flourish in his new position. He was already a red-zone favorite of Matt Schaub. He seemed to be another perfect plug-and-play tight end that the Texans have been renowned for finding. The offense utilizes their tight ends more than most other teams in the league. However, even though he did not live up to expectations, Graham still finished with a career year that helped at least start a discussion on whether or not to re-sign him and let Owen Daniels walk.
Re-signing Graham makes sense for the following reasons: age, injury history, cap-space, production.
Many fans do not like to admit it, but many of the key contributors of the Texans are getting long in the teeth. One of these players is Owen Daniels. Although 31 does not sound that old, it is getting up there in terms of football shelf life. Not only that, but Owen Daniels has a long injury history. Daniels, if retained by the Texans, will charge $6.25 million against the Texans’ salary cap this season. However, if he is cut, the team will save $3.5 million. The Texans are already up against the wall in terms of cap-space due to past contracts, so it makes sense that they would want to make as much space as possible as long as they have a viable replacement. In terms of production, it is not fair to judge Graham based off his production this season with the erratic play at the quarterback position. If Graham would have been a starter say when Schaub could throw to his own team, I believe Graham’s stats would have been much more consistent. Daniels has been a consistent target the past few seasons and a great teammate, but the option of re-signing a younger, healthier, cheaper, and possibly more productive Graham seems more logical and appealing.