Whitney Mercilus

Texans To Release DE Whitney Mercilus

s the Texans continue to pivot toward a youth movement, the team is letting go of one of their longest-tenured player. Houston is releasing veteran defensive end Whitney Mercilus, reports Aaron Wilson (via Twitter).

Mercilus has seen a reduced role in recent weeks, but the 31-year-old has still put up solid numbers despite the part-time role, compiling 12 tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss, and three QB hits. The Texans have recently pivoted to Jon Greenard and Jacob Martin at defensive end, sending Mercilus to a backup role.

The defensive end had spent his entire nine-plus-year career in Houston, starting 102 of his 132 games. He ranks second in franchise history (behind J.J. Watt) in a number of statistics, including sacks (57), forced fumbles (13), tackles for loss (72), and QB hits (115).

Mercilus inked a four-year extension with the Texans in 2019, but thanks to an offseason restructuring, he was set to hit free agent following the 2021 campaign. He’ll now hit free agency a bit earlier than that, but it probably won’t take long before the veteran finds his next gig.

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Texans Re-Work Whitney Mercilus’s Deal

Whitney Mercilus inked a four-year extension with the Texans in 2019. Now, he’s set to be a free agent after the 2021 season, thanks to a restructuring of his contract (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL.com).

Some believed that he’d be shipped out following the trade of inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney to the Dolphins, but the two sides managed to work things out. In terms of income, it’s a simple restructure for Mercilus as his base salary will be turned into a lump-sum bonus. The biggest change is that his 2022 and 2033 seasons are now voidable, making him eligible for free agency after this season. Meanwhile, the Texans will have an extra $4MM to work with in 2021.

Mercilus, a 2012 first-round pick, has spent his entire career with the Texans. Last year, he finished out with four sacks and 21 total tackles in 13 games. That marked a drop from 2019, when he had 7.5 sacks and 48 stops.

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Patriots Trade OT Marcus Cannon To Texans

New Texans GM Nick Caserio is bringing in a familiar face. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Houston will acquire OT Marcus Cannon from the Patriots, and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports that the two clubs will exchange draft positions in the 2021 fourth round, fifth round, and sixth round (Twitter links).

After the Pats traded for Trent Brown last week, speculation concerning Cannon’s roster spot began to pick up. Many assumed that New England would let him go in order to create $6.3MM of cap space, but the club managed to get its cap relief while also upgrading its picks in the middle rounds of next month’s draft.

As Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets, Cannon will likely be shifted to guard in Houston, as the Texans are set at right tackle with Tytus Howard. Cannon is owed $4.7MM in each of the next two seasons, so his salary isn’t prohibitive for a guard, and he did play on the interior earlier in his career.

Cannon opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, and as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes, the soon-to-be 33-year-old had yet to return to New England for a physical examination/workout. Obviously, the Texans are not overly concerned about Cannon’s health at this point, and though their new acquisition showed signs of decline in 2018-19, a move back to guard could help his performance.

This is the second trade the Texans have swung today, following this morning’s deal that will send inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney to Miami in exchange for edge defender Shaq Lawson. And according to Dianna Russini of ESPN.com (via Twitter), LB Whitney Mercilus might also be on his way out of Houston.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 1/13/21

Today’s minor transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

  • Activated off reserve/COVID-19 list: C Alex Mack

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans

COVID-19 Latest: Browns, Texans, Panthers

The Browns have closed their facility and delayed their flight to New Jersey because of a positive COVID-19 test. They are performing contract tracing ahead of their scheduled noon CT Sunday game against the Jets. While the Browns placed Jedrick Wills on their reserve/COVID-19 list, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports the rookie left tackle did not test positive for the coronavirus. He and practice squad wideout Ryan Switzer are close contacts. However, Wills is expected to be pulled off the Browns’ virus list in order to start Sunday, Cabot adds. Cleveland indeed activated Wills off its reserve/COVID list but placed linebacker B.J. Goodson on it ahead of Sunday’s game. Goodson tested positive, Cabot reports. The Browns are planning to depart Cleveland at some point tonight, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets.

Here is the latest from the NFL’s COVID-19 front:

  • Deshaun Watson‘s restaurant opening has caused an issue for the Texans. Watson and other Houston players were photographed maskless at the recent indoor event, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Watson received a $7.5K fine. The Texans levied fines against some of his teammates as well, with ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop noting Laremy Tunsil, Brandin Cooks and Tytus Howard were among those at the event.
  • Whitney Mercilus now resides on the Texans’ reserve/COVID-19 list, and the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson reports he tested positive for the virus (Twitter link). This is Mercilus’ second time on the COVID list; he landed there in November as a close contact of then-COVID-positive linebacker Jacob Martin. This will end Mercilus’ season — his ninth with the Texans. Thanks to his December 2019 extension, Mercilus is signed through the 2023 season.
  • The Panthersdustup with COVID earlier this month produced a series of fines. The team handed out fines of at least $10K to players who broke virus protocols during the team’s bye week earlier this month, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Wideouts D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel and Shaq Thompson, Derrick Brown and Greg Little were among those placed on the COVID list.
  • After the Broncos were forced to use practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback earlier this season, the NFL tweaked its protocol to help teams in the event similar trouble emerges. Players already receiving COVID testing will be permitted to make their debuts for new teams without having to take virus tests six days apart, Pelissero tweets. This would allow for a team to sign a player off another team’s practice squad late in the week and use him in a game in an emergency scenario.
  • Washington fined Dwayne Haskins $40K for breaking COVID protocols for the second time this season but did not suspend him.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/10/20

We’ve got a long list of all the minor transactions from the last day or so:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

  • Waived: DL Ron’Dell Carter
  • Promoted: WR DeMichael Harris

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Giants

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Washington Football Team

Latest On Texans’ COVID-19 Situation

The Texans are working remotely Thursday and found out they will be without at least three linebackers this week. Jacob Martin tested positive for COVID-19, per Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Additionally, Whitney Mercilus has been deemed a high-risk close contact and will go on the Texans’ reserve/COVID-19 list. The Texans placed Mercilus and linebacker Dylan Cole on their COVID list, where guard Max Scharping remains.

Romeo Crennel said Martin and Scharping have experienced mild symptoms, per the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter). Obtained in 2019’s Jadeveon Clowney trade, Martin has two sacks for the Texans this season. Given a recent extension, Mercilus is tied for the team lead with three midway through his ninth season in Houston. The Texans are down to two outside linebackers, with Kyle Emanuel in concussion protocol, and three inside ‘backers ahead of their Week 9 game.

The Texans join the Bears, Broncos, Cardinals, Packers, Ravens and 49ers as teams who have dealt with new COVID-19 developments this week. The U.S. documented more than 100,000 cases Wednesday, marking the first time the number entered six-figure territory since the pandemic began. As of 1:30pm CT, the NFL is proceeding with Green Bay’s Thursday game in San Francisco, despite both the Packers and 49ers having position groups decimated by the league’s coronavirus protocols. The Texans’ game in Jacksonville remains scheduled for noon CT Sunday.

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Trade Rumors: Giants, Ryan, Fuller

After dealing Markus Golden to the Cardinals, it appears the 1-6 Giants have officially declared themselves sellers at this year’s trade deadline. Though GM Dave Gettleman may be reluctant to trade away veteran talent that could theoretically help Big Blue win a few games — and perhaps save Gettleman’s job in the process — players like Evan Engram, Kevin Zeitler, and Golden Tate could be available, as Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes (though Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says the club is unlikely to deal Engram).

2017 second-round DT Dalvin Tomlinson could also be on the move, per Dunleavy. Tomlinson is playing out the last year of his rookie contract, and while he has expressed interest in staying with the Giants long-term, there has been little progress in contract talks.

As we creep closer to the November 3 deadline, let’s round up a few more trade rumors from around the league:

Texans, Whitney Mercilus Agree To Extension

The Texans will keep Whitney Mercilus in the fold on another extension. The eighth-year edge defender agreed to terms on a four-year deal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

This agreement will mark a considerable raise for Mercilus, with Fox 26’s Mark Berman reporting (via Twitter) it is worth $53.5MM and comes with $28.5MM guaranteed. At $13.38MM per year, Mercilus will head into his age-30 season making more than double what he was over the past four years. He signed a four-year, $26MM deal in 2015. Mercilus said over the summer he wanted to remain in Houston, and the Texans convinced him to again bypass free agency to stay.

Mercilus’ second Houston contract was up at season’s end, but he will now join J.J. Watt as the primary members of the Texans’ edge-rushing group going into the 2020s. Previously operating as the team’s third-highest-profile pass rusher — behind Watt and Jadeveon Clowney — Mercilus has been thrust into a lead role down the stretch of this season.

While the Texans have struggled to generate sacks since Watt’s injury, Mercilus came through with two in last week’s AFC South-clinching win over the Buccaneers. The 29-year-old outside linebacker had previously gone seven games without a sack but now has 7.5 on the season — 3.5 more than he registered in 2018.

The Texans asked Mercilus to drop into coverage more frequently in 2018, leading to limited opportunities at sacks. But the Illinois alum has now posted four seasons with at least seven QB drops, peaking in 2015 with a 12-sack slate. Mercilus’ 50 sacks are third-most in Texans history — behind Watt (96) and Mario Williams (53).

With the Texans having traded Clowney after delaying an extension for years, they have identified the player they would like to be Watt’s top sidekick for the foreseeable future.

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Whitney Mercilus Wants To Remain With Texans

Whitney Mercilus is entering the last year of the extension that he signed with the Texans in May 2015, but there has been no talk about a new deal for the former first-round pick at this point. And from the team’s perspective, that makes sense, as Mercilus suffered a season-ending pectoral injury five games into the 2017 campaign, wasn’t particularly effective last year — though he appeared in all 17 regular and postseason games — and hasn’t totaled double-digit sacks since 2015.

But the lower sack totals, at least, are not too much of a concern at this point, as Mercilus is no longer being featured as a primary pass rusher. Last year, not only did his snap count drop (partially due to a sore hamstring that bothered him throughout the first part of the season), but he was also routinely asked to drop into pass coverage for the first time in his career.

As Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes, Mercilus concedes that the new responsibilities came with a learning curve. He said, “it was a new adjustment for me: understanding and dropping back into pass coverage, helping out there with the route combinations that were there and jumbling around in my head.”

But he believes that a fully healthy offseason and a year of experience in a different role will yield improved production, and he thinks that his newfound versatility will be a boon to him and to the Texans.

Mercilus is also hopeful that a better showing in 2019 will lead to a new contract with the Texans. When asked if he wants to remain in Houston, he said, “[o]f course. Once we cross that road, we will. Right now, I’m just focusing on having the most stellar season that I can.”

Houston’s coaching staff is confident that Mercilus’ athleticism and intelligence will allow him to thrive, and if he does, then the team would certainly be open to re-signing the soon-to-be 29-year-old. The fact that he is well-liked in the locker room and active in the community could also help his cause.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.