Right as the NFL Combine was starting, teams were required to submit their franchise tags. The deadline was 4 PM ET, yesterday. The Texans, as you might have noticed by the big gap of nothing in the news yesterday, chose to tag nobody.
Perhaps the most eligible player to be tagged was long-time tight end Owen Daniels, as John Hallam explained on Texans Bull Blog:
The TE franchise tag is a reasonably low number (calculated by the average of the top 5 TE salaries in the NFL). Essentially, the money saved by the Andre Davis and Eugene Wilson would almost cover the TE franchise number. I believe a franchise tag would mean the Texans would pay Owen $7.3 million for 2011. Apparently, the Texans have other plans.
John goes on to reach the same conclusion that I do at this point: Daniels is likely on the outs with the Texans. He brings an element that our other tight ends haven't proven they can reach in the passing game; unfortunately that goes along with his poor blocking, which makes me very sad. But to the extent that the Texans are spending money on established players this year, look for it to be defense, defense, defense. And defense. Not tight ends who can't stay healthy.
All that said, say there is a free agency next season. Say the Texans were to come to an agreement with Daniels on his salary for next season. I know, I know, it feels like a strange idea at this point considering all the other tight ends on the roster. Follow me here, though. How much would you feel comfortable paying Daniels for next season as he attempts to prove that he's healthy? My answer behind the jump.
I have nothing against Daniels the player. He's put in a ton of work for this team and has sacrificed his body for it. The organization probably owes him a lot more money than it ever wound up paying him due to the NFL's draconian salary system.
I would not want Daniels back this season without a massive paycut. I'd want him to take either the veteran minimum or close to it. A healthy Daniels is probably a better receiver than either James Casey or Joel Dreessen at this point, but he hasn't been able to get through a season in full health for quite awhile now. Additionally, as I brought up above, he's just a terrible blocker. He's always been an awful blocker. Putting him on the field, with his receiving skills, would be a boon if he could block at even a league-average level, but he can't do that at this point. If it's not a situation that dictates you're going to pass the ball 80% of the time or so, I'd much rather have Casey or Dreessen out there at this point, and I'm not sure Casey is much of a downgrade from Daniels in the passing game either.
Given that we have two quality tight ends backing him up, and are sure to draft (TE joke deleted at the behest of DilloTex), I'm pretty comfortable with letting the leverage take it's course here. Of course, as John said, I do wish Daniels the best as long as he's out of our division. I just don't think it makes economic sense to bring him back unless he comes at a bargain.