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The Houston Texans are cutting ties with one of their premier defenders in Zach Cunningham, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
The 26-year-old inside linebacker was extended on Aug. 2020 to a four-year, $58 million deal after leading the NFL in total tackles (164) the season prior.
Thirteen weeks of scheduled football later in 2021 and Houston has let Cunningham go in what many deem a “rebuild” move for the 2-10 Texans.
This season, Cunningham has totaled 67 total tackles, including a forced fumble.
While the news comes as a general surprise across the League based on Cunningham’s solid production and time left on his deal, the player has been inactive or sidelined on two separate occasions this season over conduct infringements cited by the team.
A Week 2 conduct issue began to put Cunningham at odds with team brass, and a Week 13 inactivation due to a missed COVID test apparently became the final straw.
On Wednesday, head coach David Culley did not mince words over the player’s release.
“We’ve got standards. I didn’t feel like those standards had been met consistently,” Culley said. “This is about the team, it’s not about any individuals.” Culley added that the decision “wasn’t tough at all,” according to John McClain.
The Texans have a Week 14 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks (4-8). Houston’s No. 1 quarterback in Tyrod Taylor suffered a left wrist injury (torn ligament) in the third quarter of Week 13.
Davis Mills will be the interim play caller, should Taylor sit out this upcoming Sunday.
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