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.

Houston Texans Release Veterans Whitney Mercilus & Andre Roberts

Houston Texans’ General Manager has resumed his shuffling of the poorly built Houston Texans roster with the reported releases of veterans Whitney Mericilus (DE) and Andre Roberts (WR), as reported by Aaron Wilson. Head Coach David Culley did not mince words in this morning’s press meeting raising concerns about player discipline and attitude on and off the field. The release of Mercilus and Roberts was the first clear signal that no player’s roster spot is safe.

Mercilus’ contract is one of the major contract blunders of the Bill O’Brien era when the team gave Mercilus a 4 year extension worth $54 million with a stout $28.5 million guaranteed ($18 million guaranteed at signing). The team went away from their model by giving Mercilus an year early vesting on his 2021 salary. Mercilus’ performance was already starting to decline before this extension was signed. And that decline carried over into 2020 on into 2021.

New GM Nick Caserio adjusted Mercilus’s contract to gain cap space for 2021, by shifting money to the 2022 salary cap. In March, $6 million of Mercilus’ scheduled $10.5 million base salary was converted to signing bonus for salary cap purposes. This move saved the team $2.9 million in 2021 cap dollars at the time. However this shifted dead money to 2022. The team also added a void clause to the contract for the 2022 league year. The team was and is still scheduled to have a $7 million dead money charge in 2022 (originally would have been $3 million).

The Texans will take on a $8 million dead money charge for 2021, along with the aforementioned $7 million in 2022. The only savings is a $617k roster bonus that Mercilus would have earned for being active for 17 games. The $4.5 million guaranteed salary for 2021 is subject to offset. Houston will gain a cap credit, in 2022, on any cash Mercilus earns with another team in 2021.

The late evening player release is likely Houston’s way of trying to sniff out a late day 3 trade compensation for Mercilus’ contract. The transaction will not become official until 3pm tomorrow (Oct 19). If a team were to trade for Mercilus, that would free up $3.176 million from Houston’s salary cap, and would also represent the amount of salary the receiving team would be on the hook for. Unlikely at this point another team picks up the contract via trade.

Houston also reportedly released Andre Roberts WR/KR. Roberts was a member of the historically large free agent class of 2021. Roberts was signed to a 2 year $5.5 million contract with $2.5 million guaranteed. Injuries, fumbles, and poor performance appears to be the main driver for this release. The release will leave a $2 million dead money charge in 2021 and $500,000 dead money charge in 2022. The release will provide the Texans with a $570k cap savings in 2021.

Expect Houston to remain busy the next two weeks leading up to the November 2 trade deadline as the team does have a few potential trade assets as Caserio continues to remake this roster in his vision for the future.

Practice Squad Elevation Tracker: Week 8

Here is the updated list of practice squad elevations on the season. With the trade deadline coming up and veterans being exposed to waivers after the deadline it may be a time to see if more veterans get elevated or not. A player is only eligible to be elevated two times per team each year.

NameTeamPositionTimes Elevated
Trevon ColeyCardinalsDT2
Jonathan WardCardinalsRB2
Terrell BondsRavensCB2
Khalil DorseyRavensCB2
Jordan RichardsRavensS2
Kristian WelchRavensLT2
Andre SmithBillsLB2
Justin ZimmerBillsDT2
Reggie BonnafonPanthersRB2
Freedom AkinmoladunBengalsEDGE2
Trayvon HendersonBengalsS2
Kahlil McKenzieBengalsRG2
Robert JacksonBrownsCB2
Marcus HenryCowboysC2
LeVante BellamyBroncosRB2
Jeremy CoxBroncosRB2
Derrek TuszkaBroncosDE2
Josh WatsonBroncosLB2
Isaac NautaLionsTE2
Henry BlackPackersS2
John LovettPackersTE2
C.J. ProsiseTexansRB2
Jake EldrenkampColtsRG2
Ben EllefsonJaguarsTE2
K.C. McDermottJaguarsLT2
Darius BradwellChargersRB2
Tae HayesDolphinsCB2
Benito JonesDolphinsDT2
Mark FieldsVikingsCB2
Tashawn BowerPatriotsEDGE2
Nick ThurmanPatriotsDE2
Isaiah ZuberPatriotsWR2
Austin CarrSaintsWR2
Bennie FowlerSaintsWR2
Garrett GriffinSaintsTE2
Margus HuntSaintsDT2
Josh AdamsJetsRB2
Lawrence CagerJetsWR2
Lamar JacksonJetsCB2
Josh MaloneJetsWR2
Grayland ArnoldEaglesS2
Deontay BurnettEaglesWR2
Elijah RileyEaglesS2
Trey EdmundsSteelersTE2
Jayrone ElliottSteelersEDGE2
Johnathan Cyprien49ersS2
Hroniss Grasu49ersC2
Joe Walker49ersLB2
Kevin White49ersWR2
Cyril GraysonBuccaneersWR2
Jeremy McNicholsTitansRB2
Joshua GarnettFootball TeamLG2
Jared NorrisFootball TeamLB2
Cam SimsFootball TeamWR2
Sean ChandlerGiantsS2
Cameron BatsonTitansWR2
Eric SmithCowboysLT2
Kenjon BarnerBuccaneersRB2
Steven ParkerCowboysS2
Billy WinnPackersDE2
Deon LaceyBillsLB2
Torry McTyerBengalsCB2
George IlokaVikingsS2
Temarrick HemingwayFootball TeamTE2
Devante BondBearsLB2
Marcus JohnsonColtsWR2
Tyler HallFalconsCB2
Jason CroomEaglesTE2
Damarious RandallSeahawksS2
Mike WhiteJetsQB2
Marcus KempChiefsWR2
Trent HarrisGiantsEDGE2
Sergio CastilloJetsK1
Reggie WalkerCardinalsLB1
Jace WhittakerCardinalsCB1
Delrick AbramsFalconsCB1
Jamal CarterFalconsLB1
Edmond RobinsonFalconsLB1
Trystan Colon-CastilloRavensC1
Bryan Cox Jr.BillsEDGE1
Dane JacksonBillsCB1
Cameron LewisBillsCB1
Duke WilliamsBillsWR1
Woodrow HamiltonPanthersDT1
Chris OrrPanthersLB1
Tyler BrayBearsQB1
Cairo SantosBearsK1
Amani BledsoeBengalsDT1
Elijah BentonBrownsS1
A.J. GreenBrownsCB1
Deante BurtonCowboysCB1
Brandon CarrCowboysS1
P.J. LockeBroncosS1
Patrick MorrisBroncosC1
Jake RodgersBroncosRT1
Kevin StrongLionsDT1
Dee VirginLionsCB1
Kenny WigginsLionsRG1
Jonathan WilliamsLionsRB1
Tipa GaleaiPackersEDGE1
Willington PrevilonPackersDE1
Nate HallTexansDE1
Jonathan OwensTexansS1
Scottie PhillipsTexansRB1
Farrod GreenColtsTE1
De’Michael HarrisColtsWR1
Nathan CottrellJaguarsRB1
Mike GlennonJaguarsQB1
Caraun ReidJaguarsDT1
Braxton HoyettChiefsDE1
Keelan DossRaidersWR1
Kyle EmanuelRaidersLB1
Madre HarperRaidersCB1
Datone JonesRaidersDT1
Theo RiddickRaidersRB1
Chris SmithRaidersEDGE1
Javin WhiteRaidersLB1
Ryan GroyChargersLG1
Tyron JohnsonChargersWR1
Gabe NabersChargersTE1
Cole TonerChargersRG1
Marquise CopelandRamsDE1
Juju HughesRamsS1
Derrick MoncriefRamsLB1
Natrez PatrickRamsLB1
Tyshun RenderDolphinsEDGE1
Nick FolkPatriotsK1
Xavier WilliamsPatriotsDT1
Juwan JohnsonSaintsWR1
Johnny HoltonGiantsWR1
Austin MackGiantsWR1
Jimmy MurrayJetsC1
Iosua OpetaEaglesLG1
Raequan WilliamsEaglesDT1
Trevor WilliamsEaglesCB1
Antoine BrooksSteelersS1
Deon CainSteelersWR1
River Cracraft49ersWR1
Darrion Daniels49ersDT1
JaMycal Hasty49ersRB1
Dontae Johnson49ersCB1
Jared Mayden49ersS1
Shaquem GriffinSeahawksLB1
Gavin HeslopSeahawksCB1
Ryan NealSeahawksCB1
Jayson StanleySeahawksCB1
Stephen SullivanSeahawksTE1
Chad WheelerSeahawksRT1
Tanner HudsonBuccaneersTE1
Jeremiah LedbetterBuccaneersDT1
Josh PearsonBuccaneersWR1
Mazzi WilkinsBuccaneersCB1
Kareem OrrTitansCB1
David QuessenberryTitansRG1
Nick WestbrookTitansWR1
Chad SladeGiantsRG1
Jordan ThomasCardinalsTE1
Kevin Toliver IIBroncosCB1
Danny IsidoraChiefsRG1
Hardy NickersonVikingsLB1
Ryan LewisGiantsCB1
Jordan DeveyBillsRG1
De’Jon HarrisPackersLB1
Anthony RushSeahawksDT1
Dexter WilliamsPackersRB1
Jaleel ScottJetsWR1
Caleb BenenochPatriotsRG1
Joey IvieBrownsDT1
T.Y. McGillEaglesDT1
Daren BatesTitansLB1
Brian Allen49ersCB1
Brandin BryantBillsDT1
Jeff BadetFootball TeamWR1
Troymaine PopeChargersRB1
Eric SaubertJaguarsTE1
Ross CockrellBuccaneersCB1
Jahleel AddaeChargersS1
Aldrick RosasJaguarsK1
Luther KirkVikingsS1
Ken CrawleySaintsCB1
Evan BaylisCardinalsTE1
Jordan MillsCowboysRT1
Joe GazianoChargersDE1
Michael JacquetEaglesCB1
Marcus GilchristRavensS1
Deion CalhounBengalsRG1
Devaroe LawrenceFootball TeamDT1
Elliott FryFalconsK1
Jamar Taylor49ersCB1
Nigel BradhamBroncosLB1
Alex BachmanGiantsWR1
Doug MiddletonJaguarsS1
Curtis RileyCardinalsS1
Will ClappSaintsC1
Jabaal SheardJaguarsEDGE1
Adam RedmondCowboysC1
Hercules Mata’afaVikingsDT1
David IrvingRaidersDT1
Ray-Ray ArmstrongSeahawksLB1
Saivion SmithCowboysCB1
Jamon BrownEaglesRG1
Bryce HagerJetsLB1
Jason MooreChargersWR1
Dwayne HarrisBearsWR1
Quinton SpainBengalsLG1

Jets to Release Center Nick Mangold

The Jets look to be in full rebuilding mode as they will be releasing arguably their best player of the past decade, Nick Manold. Mangold thanked the Jets organization and the fans of the team for all their support through the years which would seem to indicate that he was informed of the move today.  Mangold was fifth on my list of possible cuts along the interior offensive line and his release will save the Jets $9.075 million in cap space. Continue reading Jets to Release Center Nick Mangold »

NFL Transactions: Feb 20, 2017

Cowboys Restructure Smith and Frederick Contracts

From the news that will shock nobody department the Cowboys pulled the trigger on the restructures of left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick according to ESPN’s Todd Archer. Dallas was estimated to be nearly $13 million over a projected $168 million salary cap, a number that could grow when further adjustments are made. Dallas really had no choice but to convert salary to bonus money from these two contracts. Continue reading NFL Transactions: Feb 20, 2017 »

NFL Transactions: Giants Release Cruz and Jennings

The New York Giants followed the Green Bay Packers lead by getting in early on player cuts with the release of wide receiver Victor Cruz and running back Rashad Jennings today. The two moves will clear $10 million in salary cap space for the Giants, moving them to about $32 million in estimated room, which ranks around the middle of the NFL. Continue reading NFL Transactions: Giants Release Cruz and Jennings »