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Long-time starting linebacker Zach Cunningham waived by the Houston Texans

Vincent Frank

It was just a few days ago that the Houston Texans opted to sit linebacker Zach Cunningham against the Indianapolis Colts after he was late for a COVID-19 test.

As one of the few remaining faces of this downtrodden franchise, it became clear that the former second-round pick and 2020 NFL tackles leader had no future in Houston.

That’s now official. Multiple media reports indicate that the Texans have in fact waived Cunningham nearly five full seasons with the team.

This is the latest in a series of moves from new Texans general manager Nick Caserio in an attempt to change the culture within the Texans’ organization. It obviously won’t come without both a financial and on-field cost.

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Zach Cunningham contract and release

houston texans waive zach cunningham
Jan 12, 2020; Kansas City, MO, USA; Houston Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) prepares to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in a AFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Back in August of last year, Houston’s previous front office handed the former Vanderbilt standout a four-year, $58 million extension. Once Caserio took over, Cunningham agreed to restructure his contract. It saved Houston $5.63 million against the cap this past off-season.

With him being waived, the Texans are now on the hook for an absurd $12.8 million dead cap hit. With so many holes to fill on the roster, this can’t be seen as a good thing. It’s also a clear indication that the relationship between Cunningham and the Texans couldn’t be mended.

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Zach Cunningham performance and potential interest

A second-round pick back in 2017, Cunningham has been a borderline Pro Bowler throughout his entire career in Houston. Last season saw him lead the league in tackles (164) and solo tackles (106) while registering seven tackles for loss and three sacks.

From 2018-20, Cunningham recorded a combined 413 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, nine passes defended, three forced fumbles and five sacks.

Having just turned 27, there’s going to be a strong market for Cunningham’s services on the waiver-wire. Sure his contract could be a deterent for teams atop the pecking order (waiver wire is based on record), but there’s a lot to like for contending teams.