The first real blow in what's sure to be a long bloody offseason for the Houston Texans hit when the team released tight end fan favorite Owen Daniels. The word came down just hours before NFL free agency officially opens on Tuesday afternoon.
And despite the emotional reaction from fans on Twitter, the Texans and new coach Bill O'Brien clearly did the right thing.
The team saves $4.5 million against the salary cap by jettisoning Daniels. There's no debating that Daniels is a real standup guy who is great in the community (he and his wife Angela became something of a fixture on Houston's charity social scene). But he's also a 31-year-old coming off a fractured fibula who peaked as a player in 2008. That's light years ago in NFL years.
There are few truly unexpendable players in the NFL. Owen Daniels was never close to being one. And he's further away than ever at 31.
A 2-14 team cannot afford to pay that kind of player $6.25 million (which would have been Daniels' salary in 2014 if he wasn't cut). Daniels is an out-priced luxury for a 2-14 team. Especially with an emerging tight end talent under contract in Ryan Griffin and another younger tight end own free agent in 27-year-old Garrett Graham, who the team would rather sign.
And even if the Texans don't resign Graham — and they won't if the money gets anywhere close to crazy — there are plenty of sleeper tight ends who will be available in the NFL Draft.
Reality is Owen Daniels never had a chance to be on the 2014 Texans. Which is why all those breathless reports from Texans writers on his willingness to restructure his contract rang rather ridiculous. The Texans never really considered keeping him.
Not after he missed the last 11 games of last season with a broken leg. Not with sometimes insanely loyal (see Matt Schaub) Gary Kubiak gone.
Despite the pain, this move is a good sign in no small way. It eliminates any doubt — and did you really have any? — that O'Brien will run the Texans with the same ruthless efficiency Bill Belichick's always shown in New England. It's a harsh truth, but a truth nonetheless. There are few truly unexpendable players in the NFL.
Owen Daniels was never close to being one. He's not an Arian Foster or Andre Johnson level offensive super talent. And he's further away than ever at age 31. He had some productive 70, 63 and 62-catch seasons sprinkled among his eight years in Houston. He produced some nice moments for a franchise that's never won anything of major significance.
But he's no Jimmy Graham. A 2-14 team cannot afford to cry over Owen Daniels.