The Texans agreed to terms with tight end Owen Daniels, running back Derrick Ward and defensive tackle Shaun Cody on Thursday, less than 24 hours before their contracts with the team were set to expire.
Daniels was part of Texans coach Gary Kubiak's first draft class in 2006. After making the Pro Bowl in 2008, he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament midway through the 2009 season. Despite missing five games in 2010 because of a hamstring injury, he finished the season with 38 catches for 471 yards.
"One of the big strengths of our football team is our versatility at the tight end position with Owen and Joel (Dreessen) and James (Casey), and of course you've got a young player now in Garrett (Graham)," Kubiak said on Thursday. "O.D.'s been a part of when we started this thing a few years ago and started building this thing back and getting it in position to compete on a weekly basis.
"He went through a lot. Had his knee done, went through a very difficult season last year, but made his way back. And you know, he's being rewarded for that. He belongs a Texan. I'd like him to spend his whole career here; I think that's important from a stability standpoint. We're all proud of the work he's done to get back to where he's at today, and proud of the organization for standing him up and keeping him here."
In the last four games of last season, Daniels had 22 catches for 271 yards and two touchdowns. That'd be good for 88 catches, 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns over a 16-game span.
Through seven games in 2009, Daniels led all NFL tight ends in receiving yards (497) and ranked second in receptions (39) and touchdowns (5). He was on pace for 89 catches, 1,136 yards and 11 touchdowns before he was injured at Buffalo in Week 8.
"If you look at his numbers from two years ago, it looked like he was going to be a 1,000-yard receiver at tight end," Kubiak said. "Those guys don't come along very often. If you look at what he did last year on a limited basis, if he plays the whole season, he'd have done it again. Those guys are hard to find. Owen, like I said, is a team guy and gives us a lot of versatility as an offensive football team. I just like what he stands for."
Ward, 30, averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns last season as the backup to NFL rushing champ Arian Foster. He also provided valuable veteran leadership to Foster and Steve Slaton, and he'll have Ben Tate to guide along next season as well.
"Once again, what it does is it solidifies another position that our team is very strong at," Kubiak said of re-signing Ward. "Derrick played well last year. When Arian was out of the game, we kept running the ball, and Derrick was a big part of that. So we've got a lot of confidence in him. Happy that he wants to come back with us, because I'm sure there could've been other opportunities out there for him. And I think the fact that he was a positive influence on Arian throughout the course of the year is important, too."
Cody, a second-round pick of the Lions in 2005, started for the Texans for the past two seasons. He started 16 games for the first time in his career in 2010 and recorded a career-high 38 tackles.
The Texans view Cody and 2010 rookie Earl Mitchell as viable options at the nose tackle position under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
"I think Wade sees two very good players with Earl and Shaun playing the nose for our 3-4 team," Kubiak said. "Shaun's a guy that plays 25-35 snaps a game. He's an effort guy. He's a lot of fun to be around – personality-wise, he's good for the team, and that's what you want. You want people that are here to win but yet are great people to be around on a daily basis, and he fits that mold.
"So as we prepare for the draft, as we go into free agency whenever that takes place, getting these guys in the fold, getting these guys signed solidifies some things. It helps us get more focused in one or two areas instead of worrying about eight or nine. They're good team players, guys that stand for what we're looking for, and (I'm) just glad it all happened today."