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Houston Texans release LB Zach Cunningham

Mark Berman of Fox26 Houston dropped the news today on the Houston Texans release of veteran LB Zach Cunningham

Houston signed Cunningham to a 4 year contract extension on August 31, 2020 worth a total value of $58 million with $23.5 million fully guaranteed with a total guarantee of $33.5m. This contract was negotiated by the former front office regime of Bill O’Brien and VP of Football Ops Jack Easterby. Cunningham was a 2nd round in the 2017 draft for Houston and was an outstanding player during the first few years of his career.

Cunningham did not fit well with the 4-3 Tampa 2 system brought in by new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith for 2021. Cunningham’s snaps continued to drop as the season progressed. Cunningham did see more time on the field during the injury of Christian Kirksey, only to be inactive upon the return of Kirksey.

Cunningham reportedly missed a COVID test prior to the Indianapolis game which led to his inactive status. There has been continued frustration between Cunningham and the organization dating back to training camp. To make matters worse, GM Caserio completed a maximum contract restructure in March to free up 2021 cap dollars for additional free agent acquisitions.

The Texans attempted to trade Cunningham multiple times both during preseason and leading up to the trade deadline during the season. The team could not find any takers. The animosity between the two sides came to a head today with the release.

Aaron Wilson has additional information on the multiple issues here.

Cunningham will now go through waivers. The contract is very claimable for 2021 with $422k remaining in salary + per game roster bonus pay for the remainder for 2021. However the contract does include a $10 million injury guarantee for 2022, which also vests to a full guarantee on the 5th day of the 2022 league year. The injury guarantee will likely scare teams off making claim. If Cunningham clears waivers he will become a street free agent with the ability to sign with any of the other 31 teams.

The release will leave $5.5 million dead money in 2021 and $12.8 million dead money in 2022.

Cap & Trade Episode 5

This week on Cap & Trade we were joined by returning guest Aaron Reiss of The Athletic. We discussed the continued coaching issues with Texans Head Coach David Culley, the poor performance of Houston’s offensive line, and what to expect for the rest of the season. We also touched on the Deshaun Watson situation and how it could be handled in 2022.

Reminder that we will take the next week off with the Houston Texans on their bye week. We will return after the Tennessee Titans game with new guest Adam Wexler of 790 Sports Radio afternoon A-Team.

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Cap & Trade Podcast Episode 4

In this week’s installment of Cap & Trade, TexansCap is joined by returning guests in Landry Locker of SportsRadio610 and Mike Meltser of Mad Dog Radio. We covered the trade deadline in respect to the Houston Texans going in depth on the Deshaun Watson situation, Mark Ingram, and Charles Omenihu trades. The session also covered the future direction of the team and organization and what to expect for the remainder of the season for the Texans.

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Houston Texans Trade Mark Ingram to New Orleans Saints

Wednesday afternoon multiple reports came out that Houston and New Orleans had agreed to terms on a trade that would send veteran runningback Mark Ingram from Houston to his old stomping grounds New Orleans. Houston had a glut of runningback depth with five backs on the active roster prior to this trade. New Orleans was short handed on runningback depth. Essentially this could be classified as a “win win” for both sides.

The trade terms have been revealed today with details as follows: Houston received a 2024 7th round pick. Essentially a contract dump to avoid paying the salary if Ingram was released.

Houston signed Mark Ingram early in the free agency process since Ingram was a street free agent. Head Coach David Culley was very familiar with Ingram’s work and character after spending time together in Baltimore. By most accounts this signing was as much about veteran leadership, culture, and a locker room rebuild as it was for performance. Teams generally do not sign 31 year runningbacks for their potential performance.

To facilitate the trade and to assist New Orleans with their tight cap situation, Ingram signed a 1 year extension including a $250,000 signing bonus (to be paid by Houston). New Orleans will now only have to pay 11 weeks of pro-rated $1.075 million base salary for 2021. Ingram is set to earn a $300,000 roster bonus in 2022 along with a non-guaranteed salary and $500,000 in per game bonuses. Details of the contract restructure provided by Field Yates of ESPN.

The trade was surprising for some, including myself, given how much Culley’s valued Ingram’s leadership and presence on and off the field. Suspect that New Orleans reached out the Houston on Ingram’s availability, and as with Caserio on this rebuild almost every player on the roster is available via trade.

Some have speculated that Caserio had alternative motives in signing such a large veteran free agent group as opposed to signing a large undrafted free agent class. The thought is that Caserio may try to flip some of the players for draft picks. Caserio has shown, early in his tenure, that he is willing to spend cash for draft picks (see Randall Cobb, Shaq Lawson, Bradley Roby).

Update (as of 3:30 pm CST) the New Orleans Saints tweeted a video of Ingram’s explanation of the trade. It is interesting to note that Houston approached Ingram and gave him the opportunity to make the choice. This was not a team directed move to just move a player for draft assets.

Cap & Trade Episode 3

This week on Cap & Trade, we are visited by OTC alum Brad Spielberger from Profootball Focus. We cover the Deshaun Watson trade scenarios along with other trade assets that the Houston Texans have on their roster. We expanded out to other potential trades across the league. We also discuss trade down philosophies for the 2022 draft.

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