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A surprise: The #Texans are releasing LB Zach Cunningham, source said.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 8, 2021
This is surprising because Cunningham still has a little over two years left on his contract. The Texans signed him to a four-year, $58 million extension in Aug. 2020, just 16 months ago.
Cunningham, 26, has 67 total tackles in 2021, along with one forced fumble and three pass deflections.
He also had disciplinary issues. According to the Houston Chronicle, he was benched for one quarter in Week 2 for violating team rules (reportedly a recurring lateness issue) and was deactivated for Week 13 for violating team rules again (this time he reportedly missed the players' Sunday morning COVID-19 test).
Head coach David Culley talked about Cunningham and was semi-candid.
#Texans HC David Culley on cutting LB Zach Cunningham: "We've got standards. I didn't feel like those standards had been met consistently. This is about the team, it's not about any individuals."
Was it a tough decision? “Wasn’t tough at all."
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) December 8, 2021
David Culley asked why release LB Zach Cunningham now instead of waiting until the end of the season: “I’ve got a locker room full of players that understand what our standard is..They look at me cross eyed when I’m not practicing what I’m preaching.” pic.twitter.com/m2KfY3zE0Z
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) December 8, 2021
Another Texans failure story
This whole situation with Cunningham doesn't look great for the Texans. They signed him to a $58 million extension about five months after trading standout wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals, reportedly because they didn't want to fork over the money to extend Hopkins. One month after Cunningham signed his extension, Hopkins signed a two-year, $54.5 million extension with the Cardinals.
The Texans didn't have to trade Hopkins, especially because we know they had the money to extend him. Instead they traded him and used that money to sign Cunningham to a four-year deal. Oh, and now they have a $12.8 million dead salary-cap hit in 2022. To say this didn't work out for the Texans would be an understatement.