Packers Rumors: Whitney Mercilus Signs Contract with Green Bay After Texans Release

Adam WellsOctober 20, 2021

Houston Texans defensive end Whitney Mercilus walks off the field after a 31-21 loss to the Cleveland Browns in an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
AP Photo/Ron Schwane

Whitney Mercilus didn't have to wait long to find a new home in the NFL.

Mercilus is signing with the Green Bay Packers, per NFL reporter Aaron Wilson and ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. The 10-year veteran turned down more money elsewhere to sign with Green Bay, according to Fowler.

The 31-year-old became a free agent after the Houston Texans released him Tuesday. He had spent his entire career with the organization after being selected in the first round of the 2012 draft. 

Coming into this season, the Texans restructured Mercilus' contract to clear salary-cap space. He signed a four-year, $54 million deal in 2019, but the restructuring included two voidable years that would have made him a free agent after this season. 

This season marked a significant change for Mercilus in Houston's defense. He spent the bulk of his career playing outside linebacker in a base 3-4 scheme. 

Texans head coach David Culley hired Lovie Smith as defensive coordinator in March, and his system runs primarily out of a 4-3 base, putting Mercilus at defensive end for six games prior to his release.

Speaking to reporters last month, Mercilus called it "a little different" playing in a new system for the first time since he was in college at Illinois: 

"Now it's like my keys are shortened down to just reading tackles and tight ends and pre-snap reads, so I can't see anything that's post-snap or when motions happen, stuff like that, to get a beat on what might happen, things like that. It's just reading my keys more so and locking in on that, and just letting instinct take over."

Mercilus was second on the Texans with three sacks and tied for third with four tackles for loss. 

The Akron, Ohio, native has been an excellent pass-rusher with 115 quarterback hits and 57 sacks in 134 career games. His age and skill set are best served in pass-rush situations. 

Green Bay's defense has been solid, though some of that can be attributed to weaker competition. The Packers rank fourth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (206.5) and are tied for ninth in sacks (14). 

After Sunday's game against the Washington Football Team, things will get more difficult for the Packers. They have back-to-back road games against the Arizona Cardinals (Oct. 28) and Kansas City Chiefs (Nov. 7), followed by a home game against the Seattle Seahawks (Nov. 14) when Russell Wilson could be back. 

Mercilus is still good enough as a pass-rusher to be a useful player for a contending team. He doesn't have to transform the Packers defense, but his ability to attack the quarterback gives them an element that has been lacking in 2021. 


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