With C.J. Fiedorowicz's retirement, what's next for Texans at TE?

HOUSTON -- After tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz retired on Thursday at the age of 26 after suffering at least three concussions in 2017, the Houston Texans are without a No. 1 tight end.

While Fiedorowicz was on injured reserve at the beginning last season, the Texans primarily relied on tied ends Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson. Griffin suffered two concussions last year and was placed on injured reserve in November, while Anderson was inconsistent throughout the season.

Texans tight ends caught 53 percent of their targets last season, which was the worst in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The group scored just two combined receiving touchdowns, which was tied for last in the league.

With top free agent tight ends Jimmy Graham and Trey Burton off the free-agent board -- Graham to the Green Bay Packers and Burton to the Chicago Bears -- there are a few other options available that the Texans should look into, including former Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert, former Carolina Panthers backup Ed Dickson and recently-released Eric Ebron.

The Texans, who entered free agency with nearly $68 million of available cap space, will get a little bit more financial flexibility with Fiedorowicz’s contract after his retirement and could put that money toward a free agent tight end.

Last August, the Texans signed Fiedorowicz to a three-year, $22 million contract that included $10 million guaranteed. When the Texans signed Fiedorowicz to the extension, they included a de-escalator that would reduce his base salary by $2.8 million if he were to be cut or retire due to a pre-existing condition such as a concussion.

Ebron, who was released this week by the Lions, was set to cost Detroit $8.25 million against the cap in 2018. Ebron, 24, was the Lions’ No. 10 pick in 2014 but failed to live up to that high selection during his time in Detroit. Ebron had his best season in 2016, when he posted career highs in receptions (61) and yards (711). Ebron has ties to Houston and has made the city his offseason home.

Ebron was the 13th-ranked tight end last season, according to Pro Football Focus. In comparison, last year for the Texans, Griffin was ranked 34th and Anderson was ranked 47th.

Eifert is another former first-round pick, but injuries have limited him to just 39 games in his first five NFL seasons; he has never played in all 16 games in a season. Eifert’s best season came in 2015, when he had 13 touchdowns in 13 games and was named to the Pro Bowl.

Dickson, 30, was primarily a blocking tight end in his first three seasons with the Panthers, but he was forced into the lead tight end role last season after Greg Olsen suffered a broken foot in Week 2 and missed nine games. Dickson caught 30 passes for 437 yards and a touchdown last season. In his first three seasons with the Panthers, he had just 37 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns. If the Texans believe in Griffin and Anderson as pass-catching options, Dickson would be a solid veteran addition.

The Texans could use Griffin as their No. 1 tight end going forward and use the offseason and training camp to see if MyCole Pruitt and Ryan Malleck could play a similar role to what Anderson did as the Texans’ third tight end in his rookie season.

Regardless of whom they choose to add, the Texans need to make sure quarterback Deshaun Watson has the weapons around him to continue Houston’s dominant offense and can’t do that with the league’s worst tight end situation as they had last season.