Texans To Waive LB Zach Cunningham

Made a healthy scratch in Week 13, Zach Cunningham is no longer with the Texans. The rebuilding team cut ties with the veteran linebacker Wednesday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

Cunningham was scratched for disciplinary reasons Sunday, Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson tweets, and he may soon have a new home. The former second-round pick will head to waivers. He would pass through to free agency if unclaimed by Thursday afternoon.

David Culley had disciplined Cunningham at multiple points this season, including recently due to showing up late for a COVID-19 test, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. Cunningham, 27, will follow Phillip Lindsay as a post-trade deadline Texans cut.

The Texans had previously reduced Cunningham’s playing time, but he had been back to an every-down player in recent weeks. Houston used Cunningham on every defensive snap during his final three games with the team. After the Texans’ new regime shopped Cunningham ahead of the deadline, no trade materialized. The team will cut its losses and do so with a big dead-money hit.

Because of the four-year, $58MM extension the parties agreed to in 2020, the Texans will be hit with $12.8MM in dead money. As for Cunningham’s prospects of being claimed, he is due less than $300K in base salary for the rest of this season. No guarantees remain on the off-ball linebacker’s deal beyond 2021, increasing the likelihood he will not make it to free agency this year. Cunningham’s contract does contain eight-figure base salaries from 2022-24, which would make him a potential 2022 cut candidate — should another team claim him by Thursday.

This marks a swift change for the Vanderbilt product. Cunningham led the NFL with 164 tackles last season. Houston had he and Benardrick McKinney signed to big-ticket inside-‘backer deals exiting last season. Now, both are gone.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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