Broncos tight end Owen Daniels is a newly-minted Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowler, and he has amassed 5,661 receiving yards and 36 touchdowns over a long and productive career. He is also 33, and he has had two of his ten professional seasons cut short, one due to a broken leg and one due to a torn ACL. All of that wear and tear has left him with no meniscus in his left knee and a right knee that caused him considerable pain throughout the course of the 2015 season.
Add it all up and it’s reasonable to wonder if Daniels is contemplating retirement. However, Daniels himself told Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today that he plans to continue playing at least through the end of his current contract, which runs through the 2017 season. He signed a three-year, $12.25MM deal last March and is set to count $4.5MM against the cap in 2016 and $5MM against the cap in 2017. The team could save $2.5MM by releasing him.
However, the Broncos do not currently have another tight end on the roster that could realistically step in for Daniels. Vernon Davis was a major disappointment after being acquired by Denver in a mid-season trade in 2015, and he is eligible for unrestricted free agency this year anyway. Virgil Green has been a quality No. 2 tight end during his five-year tenure with the Broncos, but he has not done much to show that he can step into the No. 1 role, and 2015 third-round selection Jeff Heuerman has significant upside but missed all of his rookie season after tearing his left ACL in a non-contact special teams drill last May.
Daniels spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Texans prior to signing a one-year deal with the Ravens in 2014. Current Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak was the Texans’ head coach for the entirety of Daniels’ career in Houston and served as Baltimore’s offensive coordinator in 2014 before both men moved to Denver in 2015. Daniels, a Wisconsin product, caught 46 balls for 517 yards and three scores last season, and he caught Peyton Manning‘s first pass of Super Bowl 50, good for 18 yards.
Said Daniels, “[Retirement’s] definitely an option. But I’m a man of my word, I signed a three-year deal, so I’d like to keep playing. I feel good enough as long as I can get some work done on my 33-year-old knees.”