NFL Rumors: Zach Cunningham Placed on Waivers by Texans

Adam WellsDecember 8, 2021

Houston Texan linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) during the first half of an NFL football game with the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)
AP Photo/Darryl Webb

Zach Cunningham's tenure with the Houston Texans has reportedly ended. 

Per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the fifth-year linebacker will be placed on waivers on Wednesday. 

The move comes 15 months after the Texans signed Cunningham to a four-year, $58 million contract extension in August 2020. 

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

There were a lot of reasons for the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Texans?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Texans</a> to try to make it work with Zach Cunningham, who the previous regime gave a 4-year, $58M contract. It didn’t happen. Now, the team has a $12.8M dead cap hit next year. So much to fix and get past in Houston.

Per ESPN's Field Yates, any team that might claim Cunningham will only absorb a $275,000 cap hit after the Texans restructured his deal before the start of the season. 

Yates added Cunningham's deal has no more guaranteed money remaining after 2021, "making him even more likely to find a team via waivers."

If Cunningham makes it through waivers unclaimed, he will become an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any team immediately. 

McClain noted Cunningham was inactive for Sunday's 31-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts when he "failed to appear for the players’ regular COVID-19 test."

Kevin Pierre-Louis, who made his first start of the season against the Colts, will likely move into Cunningham's spot as Houston's primary strong-side linebacker. 

It marked the second time this season that Cunningham has been subject to disciplinary action from the Texans. He was benched during the team's Week 2 loss against the Cleveland Browns for unspecified reasons. 

Cunningham's extension was signed when Bill O'Brien was still in his role as head coach and general manager in Houston. O'Brien was fired after an 0-4 start last season. 

First-year general manager Nick Caserio and head coach David Culley have taken on the task of trying to rebuild a depleted Texans roster. Cunningham agreed to restructure his deal in March to create more cap space. 

Field Yates @FieldYates

Texans LB Zach Cunningham had $7.51M of his 2021 base salary converted into a signing bonus, creating $5.6325M in 2021 cap space.<br><br>With three more players officially signed on Monday, Houston's busy free agency under GM Nick Caserio continued.

A second-round pick by the Texans in the 2017 NFL draft, Cunningham has appeared in 72 games over the past five seasons. He recorded more than 100 combined tackles in each of the previous three seasons, including an NFL-high 164 in 2020. 

The Vanderbilt alum also led the league with 106 solo tackles last year. He played every defensive snap in five of his 10 games for the Texans in 2021.