Houston Texans: Team should consider trading Whitney Mercilus

Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Houston Texans have important decisions to make and they should consider trading Whitney Mercilus. Why? Let’s take a look and find out.

Houston Texans fans — free agency will open in a few more weeks and I expect for the franchise to be fairly active in talks.  Despite the team’s 11-5 finish last season, it ended with a loud thud in an embarrasing 21-7 Wild Card-round loss to the Indianapolis Colts last month.

There are improvements that certainly have to made to make this team whole and ready to compete for 2019.

The Houston Texans have supposedly already overhauled their offensive staff with former tight ends coach Tim Kelly taking over as the offensive coordinator and the highly-revered Carl Smith replacing the outgoing Sean Ryan as quarterbacks coach.  Former Texans QB T.J. Yates has been hired on as an offensive assistant, replacing Will Lawing, who has been promoted to the tight ends coach.

With the amount of talent this team has on offense, there was no excuse for such a poor performance against the Colts and it’s good to see the Houston Texans aren’t taking things likely with the changes that they made.  It remains to be seen if they’ll work but I’m really excited to see what Smith can do to help Deshaun Watson reach his full potential.

The team will have a significant amount of cap space this season to do what they need with an estimated $78 million to spend on the books.

I’d expect that number to decrease over the next few seasons, especially if the team does come to terms with Jadaveon Clowney, to which it’s anyone’s guess how this off season will pan out for him.

But the most important question is what the team will do with outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus?

The easy answer is that they will do nothing and let him play out the final season of his four-year, $26 million deal to which he’ll earn a base salary of $5.75 million.  He’s been a mainstay of that defense for quite some time and it’ll be good to have him around at least for depth purposes.

Mercilus suffered a pectoral injury early in the 2017 season and it took him awhile to get going in 2018 and never seemed to eclipse the echelon of the fierce, pass-rushing machine that we’ve all come to love.

I’m sure a lot of the factor was the scheme as J.J. Watt and Clowney finished the season in relatively solid health so that left little opportunity for Mercilus to do his thing.  Although it was great to see both out on the field, it was the worst thing that could’ve happened to Mercilus.

And it’s notwithstanding the notion that Romeo Crennel just couldn’t figure out what to do with him to ensure that he was effective out on the line.  If the team retains him, that should be one of the utmost of priorities for RAC, to get him move involved out on his snaps.

But is Mercilus fully healthy or is he rusty?  Will he ever emerge back to the player he was in 2015?  I think he has potential to do so but there’s a strong possibility that he’ll have to do it elsewhere.

There were rumors last off season of the Houston Texans working on an extension for Mercilus — I wrote about it — but the notion faded as the off season wore on.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Mercilus had a 63.1 overall defensive grade, along with a 68.0 in pass rush and a 58.9 in tackling.

These numbers are way down from 2015, where he scored a 84.0, 83.5 and 73.1 respectively in those categories.

His sacks are way down from his best season to which he had 15 in 2015 to just five last season.

To give you a caveat, PFF’s numbers are different to what the NFL has so please understand that there could some slight variances in stats.

His total pressures (43), tackles (24), run stops (20) are all down while he had the 2nd-most amount of missed tackles in his career in 2018 with seven of those this credit.

Is this indicative of a man with just a down season or does it give further credence to a player

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where his skills are starting decline as he approaches the dreaded age-30 mark?

I think the Houston Texans should ask themselves if they can get a decent return on Mercilus if he were traded.

I think Mercilus is worth at least a 5th-round pick — possibly as high as 4th — and that will be helpful for the team as they try to improve via the draft.  The offensive line and the defensive back position will hold the utmost of priority this time around but if there’s a defensive lineman that they like, there’s no problem is using a potential extra pick they’d acquire on him.

Mercilus is truly one of my favorite Houston Texans‘ players but I can’t shy away from the fact that the franchise is going to have to make a decision on him at some point, whether now or after the 2019 season.

Where they go remains to be seen so let’s keep an eye out.

Mercilus, 28, the Texans’ first-round draft choice in 2012 (26th overall), amassed 39 combined tackles — 22 solo — along with 4.0 sacks, five tackles-for-loss, 14 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles through all 16 games last season with nine starts to his credit.

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