Titans release tight end Graham, focus on younger players

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 6:55pm

Chris Palmer was talking to the quarterbacks but Daniel Graham just could not ignore it.

During one of last week’s Tennessee Titans organized team activities (OTAs), Palmer wanted better precision and timing on a particular pass route. Even though, at that point, the offense worked against air (no defense), Palmer theorized following a completion to Graham that under game conditions the veteran tight end would be the fourth receiver knocked out of commission by opposing cornerbacks, thanks to a lack of details by the passers.

Graham, who is 6-foot-3, 257 pounds went to Palmer and quietly but firmly proclaimed “No cornerback can knock me out of a game.”

Time, on the other hand, did just that.

The Titans released the 33-year-old veteran of 10 NFL seasons on Tuesday.

“We got to that point where it seemed like it was in the best interest of Daniel and the best interest of the team to kind of give him the opportunity to move on for what we need to do as an offense going forward and for Daniel knowing the chance for him getting a lot of reps was going to be limited,” coach Mike Munchak said. “… We loved his time here and I wish it could have gone on a little differently. He has obviously had a very good career and I’m sure he can go on and play and help someone still this year.”

Graham now is a free agent available to any team.

Tennessee signed him to a three-year deal early in training camp last season with the idea that he would be primarily a run blocker. He played in all 16 games but caught just two passes — one for a touchdown — and by the end of the season enjoyed limited playing time.

Before Tennessee, he spent five seasons with New England and four with Denver. He played in two Super Bowls with the Patriots and was one of four NFL tight ends who caught at least one touchdown pass every year from 2002 through 2009.

“He was a great leader, a great guy by example, he was great in the tight end room and really for the whole team, I thought,” Munchak said. “Unfortunately, as we all know the way the season went we didn’t run the ball as much as we liked to and he didn’t get the reps he thought he would be able to get originally because obviously we thought we would run the ball much more often than we did last year.

“He didn’t get an opportunity to play like we hoped he would when we signed him.”

With the addition of fifth-round draft pick Taylor Thompson and the continued development of Cameron Graham (no relation), who spent the entire 2011 season on the practice squad, his chances were likely to decrease this season.

Veterans Craig Stevens and Jared Cook are established at the top of the tight end depth chart.

“We have had two good tight ends with Cook and Stevens that have developed and have their roles, so it is harder for that third guy to get a lot of reps, so he has to be more of a special teamer and a guy that can be more versatile,” Munchak said. “That kind of forced our hand a little bit. … We have some young guys we felt that could compete.”