Sean Pendergast

Whitney Mercilus Restructures His Awful Contract With the Texans

Whitney Mercilus horrific contract extension looks like it will be shortened down to one more, very expensive season.
Whitney Mercilus horrific contract extension looks like it will be shortened down to one more, very expensive season. Photo by Eric Sauseda
With the Deshaun Watson civil lawsuit hurricane blowing in the background, and with at least one other Houston professional sports team extending its championship window on Wednesday afternoon (shout out to Lance McCullers on his five year, $85 million extension), the Houston Texans continued to clean up the nuclear fallout from the wasteland that was the Bill O'Brien General Manager Era.

Much of the franchise makeover has involved jettisoning the overpaid, former O'Brien "teacher's pet" types — looking at you, Nick Martin!. However, there are some remnants from O'Brien's nonexistent contract value acumen who are uncuttable because O'Brien (and Jack Easterby) thought it would be a good idea to guarantee salaries for multiple years.

To that end, the truly horrific contract of Whitney Mercilus got a remodeling on Wednesday:
There was just no good way to handle Mercilus for 2021. He signed a four-year, $54 million extensions before the 2020 season, with $28 million guaranteed, and it became the worst contract in team history before the ink was even dry on the paperwork. Fast forward to the actual season itself, and the Texans paid Mercilus a boatload of money in 2020 for 21 tackles in 13 games.

Because handing O'Brien control of contracts and the roster was like handing it over to a drunk St. Bernard, Mercilus salary of $10.5 million was fully guaranteed, so cutting him was not an option. Cutting Mercilus one year into his extension would have resulted in a bigger cap hit than keeping him. The fact that this is actually a discussion illustrates just how big a buffoon the GM version of O'Brien was. (The head coach version was okay. Just okay.)

So this makes four prominent Houston Texans who have now restructured their contracts to open up salary cap space:
If nothing else, Mercilus' contract restructure, which essentially makes him a free agent after the 2021 season is over, is a reminder that the purge of this roster is probably a two-year process. Once Deshaun Watson is traded (yes, I do believe that is still happening), my best guess is that the only 2020 Houston Texans still remaining in 2022 will be the two offensive tackles (Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard), most of the 2020 rookie class, and long snapper Jon Weeks, who we learned this week will never, EVER die!

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast