Shane Lechler

P Shane Lechler Retires From NFL

Shane Lechler is hanging up his cleats. The veteran punter held a “retirement party” last night to celebrate the end of his career, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Former NFL punter Pat McAfee also tweeted the news.

Following a standout career at Texas A&M, the punter entered the league as a fifth-round pick in the 2000 draft. He spent the first 13 seasons of his career with the Raiders before moving on to the Texans.

The punter spent five years with Houston before signing a one-year, $2MM extension with the organization last offseason. The team ended up releasing Lechler towards the end of the preseason, but the veteran made it clear that he wasn’t planning on immediately retiring. However, the 18-year veteran didn’t end up generating any reported interest as a free agent.

Either way, the 42-year-old will retire as one of the top punters in NFL history. Lechler’s accolades speak for themselves: he was a seven-time Pro Bowler, six-time first-team All-Pro, three-time second-team All-Pro, and the 2009 Golden Toe Award winner (via Pro Football Weekly). Lechler was also named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team (along with former Bills standout Brian Moorman).

Statistically, Lechler led the NFL in average punt distance five times, and he led the NFL in punting yards four times. He owns the all-time record for yards-per-punt, while his 1,444 career punts ranks second behind Jeff Feagles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Finalize 53-Man Roster

With cuts due this afternoon, the Texans made theirs official. This includes all-time punter great Shane Lechler, which surfaced on Friday.

The Texans also released Joe Webb, thinning out their quarterback room to just Deshaun Watson and Brandon Weeden.

Houston will begin its season without the services of backup running back D’Onta Foreman as well. Still recovering from his season-ending injury sustained in November of last year, Foreman will begin the season on the Texans’ Reserve/PUP list. He won’t be eligible to play until after Week 6.

As for the rest of Houston’s Saturday roster decisions, here’s who will not appear on the 53-man group to start the season:

Released:

Waived:

Waived with an injury designation:

Released with injury settlements

Placed on Reserve/Non-Football Illness list

Texans Release Punter Shane Lechler

The Texans have cut Shane Lechler, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). With Lechler out of the picture, they’ll roll with rookie Trevor Daniel as their punter.

Lechler didn’t necessarily struggle during the preseason, but Daniel was outstanding. No one thought the University of Tennessee product had a real chance at unseating Lechler, but the Texans went with the untested option, even though they’re still on the hook for Lechler’s $600K guarantee.

After spending the first 13 years of his career with the Raiders, Lechler joined up with the Texans in 2013, and he hasn’t missed a game during his tenure in Houston. Last year, Lechler led the league in punting yards with 4,507 and put his boot to the ball 92 times. The veteran is first all-time in yards per punt, and he’s second all-time in punts and punting yards.

Given his experience, reputation, accomplishments, and holding ability, it would be surprising if Lechler does not find a job elsewhere.

Shane Lechler Fighting For Roster Spot?

Shane Lechler may be a future Hall of Famer, but the veteran is currently fighting for a roster spot. As John McClain of the Houston Chronicle writes, the 42-year-old is competing with Trevor Daniel for the Texans’ punter gig. While Lechler hasn’t necessarily struggled during the preseason, his rookie competitor has been “outstanding.”

Lechler re-signed with Houston this offseason on a one-year, $2MM deal. The team brought in Daniel, an undrafted rookie out of the University of
Tennessee, shortly after the draft. While the competition was initially an afterthought, the rookie’s recent play has put Lechler’s roster spot in jeopardy. Through two preseason games, Daniel’s gross averages have been 42 and 55.3 yards (Lechler’s have been 45.7 and 37 yards).

Bill (O’Brien) wants competition at every position, and I had to come in and be ready to go,” Lechler told McClain. “There are only 32 of us who have this job, and they’re always looking to replace and go younger or go cheaper – whatever it is.”

While Daniel may have the upperhand when it comes to punting, Lechler has managed to contribute in other aspects of the game. As McClain writes, the veteran is considered an excellent holder, while Daniel never held when he was in college. Lechler also has the respect of his coaches and teammates, something that a rookie couldn’t reasonably overcome.

After spending the first 13 years of his career with the Raiders, Lechler joined up with the Texans in 2013, and he hasn’t missed a game during his tenure in Houston. Last year, Lechler led the league in punting yards with 4,507 and put his boot to the ball 92 times. The veteran is first all-time in yards per punt, and he’s second all-time in punts and punting yards.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Re-Sign P Shane Lechler

The Texans have re-signed punter Shane Lechler, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). It’s a one-year, $2MM deal, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 (on Twitter). 

Lechler, who was ranked fourth on PFR’s list of free agent punters, is entering his 19th year in the NFL. After spending the first 13 years of his career with the Raiders, Lechler joined up with the Texans in 2013 and has not missed a game in Houston. Last year, Lechler led the league in punting yards with 4,507 and put his boot to the ball 92 times. This year, the Texans hope to use him a little less often.

In other Texans news, the team also re-signed a pair of exclusive rights free agents in safety Corey Moore and defensive end Ufomba Kamalu.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

Texans Notes: Lechler, Savage, Joseph

Shane Lechler will turn 42 before the 2018 NFL season begins, but the Texans punter wants to play a 19th season. He is not under contract beyond 2017 but wants said 19th campaign to come in Houston.

Is this my last year? No, it’s not,” Lechler said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “I have too much, I think, to offer to the game, and I hit the ball good consistently this year. I went into the year with a good plan and, for the most part, it worked out. … I think the way this year we were hit so hard with injuries, there’s no way I would walk away with the talent in this room. I’m very excited about next year and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Texans and Lechler agreed on one-year deals in each of the past two Marches. He earned $2MM this season after signing for $1.8MM in 2016. Lechler’s final years with the Raiders during the early 2010s were for more money, but he seems to have settled on a consistent path with the Texans. Lechler’s currently averaging 48.9 yards per punt, which would be his best single-season figure since his most recent All-Pro slate of 2010.

Here’s the latest out of Houston.

  • The NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement regarding the handling of Tom Savage‘s concussion, and the Texans will not be disciplined for how they dealt with the matter. However, the statement said the outcome was “unacceptable and therefore further improvements in the protocol are necessary.” As a result of the Savage incident, the NFL will make enhancements to its concussion protocol. Kevin Patra of NFL.com details the updated chain of events.
  • Johnathan Joseph‘s second Texans contract will expire after Sunday’s game against the Colts, but the 33-year-old cornerback wants to stay in Houston. This will wrap up Joseph’s 12th NFL season; he’s played seven of those with the Texans on two contracts. He will turn 34 in April. “This has been home for me; I’d like to continue it being my home,” Joseph said, via Wilson. “At the end of the day, that’s not my call to make. We’ll see what happens. I think I’ve had a great run here.” Joseph rates as Pro Football Focus’ No. 62 corner (out of 121 full-time players at the position), and the former Pro Bowler would figure to draw interest on a short-term deal come March. The Texans have Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson under contract for 2018 but have started Joseph the past seven seasons.
  • The Texans could be forced to make a difficult choice after Week 17, with the Bill O’BrienRick Smith relationship looking to have deteriorated to or near the point of no return.

Extra Points: Bolts, Bills, Lechler, Seahawks

After parting ways with Orlando Franklin with three years remaining on his deal, the Chargers are going to have a revamped offensive line in 2017. But they will be doing some rearranging on their own as well. Matt Slauson functioned at center for the 2016 Bolts, but the former Jets and Bears guard looks like he’s going to be moving back to his original position. The second-year Charger worked at left guard during the team’s voluntary minicamp last month, Dan Woike of the San Diego Union-Tribune notes. Franklin lined up at left guard the past two years for the Bolts. Slauson played center, and graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 18 player there last season, but he was a left guard starter for his first five-plus seasons in the league. Slauson moved to center with the 2015 Bears due to a Hroniss Grasu injury. New Bolts HC Anthony Lynn was the Jets’ running backs coach throughout Slauson’s time with Gang Green.

Woike adds that Forrest Lamp has begun working at right guard, where D.J. Fluker played in 2015-16, and Indiana Dan Feeney took early reps at center. That would be a way to get both Day 2 picks in the lineup, along with Slauson. A 2016 third-round pick, Max Tuerk could also factor into the equation at center.

Here’s more from around the league.

  • In moving from the Texans to the Bills, Brian Gaine made a lateral move in Brandon Beane‘s eyes. As Bills VP of player personnel, Gaine will oversee the Bills’ pro and college scouting departments while reporting directly to Beane, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports. Beane, of course, beat out Gaine for the Buffalo GM job. But the New York native saw enough in the Bills’ offer to move over from a similar job with what’s been a more successful franchise to the franchise with the longest active postseason drought among American major pro sports teams.
  • Speaking of the Texans, Shane Lechler‘s 2017 deal will contain a $500K signing bonus, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. The 40-year-old punter re-signed with Houston for $2MM this year and doesn’t sound like retirement is especially close. This will be his 18th season. Despite being regarded as one of the greatest punters in NFL history, Lechler at this point is a middle-of-the-pack player in terms of salary. He’ll be making $200K more than last season.
  • The Seahawks don’t plan to play Malik McDowell as a defensive tackle, but rather as an interior player on passing downs, Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com notes, adding that Pete Carroll wants him to operate in a Michael Bennett-like capacity. That means McDowell may be a second-stringer as a rookie but play multiple positions. While Carroll said the second-round pick would see time at the three-technique spot in Seattle’s 4-3 scheme, he doesn’t view the Michigan State product as a pure tackle. “We’ll play him a little more at defensive end,” Carroll said, per Kapadia. “He played inside a lot. He was over the center a lot, and he doesn’t look like that kind of player in our system to us.” The Seahawks still have 2016 second-rounder Jarran Reed and Ahtyba Rubin at defensive tackle, along with third-round rookie Nazair Jones.
  • The Eagles did not sign safety Weston Steelhammer after inviting the Air Force alum to their rookie minicamp. One of three Air Force products to receive a tryout over the weekend, Steelhammer sits in limbo after the Department of Defense reversed its more lenient ruling just before the draft. If nothing changes, Steelhammer and more prominent Air Force prospect Jalen Robinette must serve for two years before beginning an NFL career. “Things didn’t work out how we thought or how we hoped, but everything happens for a reason,” Steelhammer said, via Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com. “I’ll just try to make the most of it.”

Contract Details: Gholston, Colquitt, Doyle, Davis

Updates on the contracts signed over the past couple of days, mostly via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle…

  • Buccaneers defensive end William Gholston‘s contract includes $13.5MM in guaranteed money, as well as a guaranteed base salary of $3MM for the 2017 season (via Twitter). The 25-year-old’s $6.5MM 2018 salary becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2017 league year.
  • Defensive tackle Khyri Thornton‘s deal with the Lions is worth $3.3MM with a $325K bonus (Twitter). Thornton will make $700K in 2017, followed by a $1.325MM salary in 2018. He can earn another $12.5K via annual per game active roster bonus, as well as $225K via a weight bonus.
  • Punter Britton Colquitt‘s new deal with the Browns is worth $11.2MM and $4.5MM guaranteed (via Twitter). The former fourth-rounder will earn $1.65MM in 2017, followed by salaries of $2.55MM (2018), $2.7MM (2019), and $2.8M (2020).
  • Colts tight end Jack Doyle will earn $18.9MM on his next contract (via Twitter). Doyle will earn a guaranteed $1MM next season, followed by a $3.5MM salary in 2018 (guaranteed fifth day of league year) and $5.15MM salary in 2019. The tight end will also earn a $6.5MM roster bonus on March 10th.
  • Fullback James Develin earned a $2.45MM contract from the Patriots along with a $300K signing bonus, reports Wilson (Twitter). Develin will earn $800K each year, with a guaranteed $200K base salary for 2017. He can earn another $12.5K via a per-game active annual roster bonus.
  • ESPN’s Adam Caplan tweets that tight end Vernon Davis will receive $15MM ($7.5MM guaranteed) from the Redskins. The veteran will make $6MM in the first year of the three-year deal.
  • Punter Shane Lechler‘s new deal with the Texans is for one-year and $2MM ($1MM guaranteed), reports Caplan (via Twitter).

Texans To Re-Sign Nick Novak, Shane Lechler

The Texans have agreed to lock up both of their specialists, as the club will re-sign kicker Nick Novak and punter Shane Lechler, tweets Mark Berman of FOX 26.Shane Lechler (vertical)

[RELATED: Texans Interested In Ricky Wagner]

Novak, 35, has spent the past two seasons with the Texans after four years with the Chargers. In 2016, Novak managed to hit 85.4% of his field goal attempts, a tick above his career rate of 82.8%. From 50+ yards, Novak was three-of-six, while Novak also missed three extra points. Novak earned a $885K base salary last year under the terms of a minimum salary benefit contract.

Now 40 years old, Lechler is a seven-time Pro Bowler, but the Texans lost 12.7 points of field position on punts last season. In fact, Houston’s special teams unit finished dead least in DVOA in 2016, earning poor marks in every area except punt returns. Still, the Texans will bring back Lechler — who ranked 16th in net yards per punt — and Novak.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.