Houston Texans: A strong possibility team can’t re-sign Zach Cunningham

Houston Texans inside linebacker Zach Cunningham (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Texans inside linebacker Zach Cunningham (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The Houston Texans have an important decision to make after the season and the possibility exists that they won’t be able to re-sign Zach Cunningham. Why?

It’s the offseason Houston Texans‘ fans and there’s not much going on other than playing the waiting game for sports across the world to restart.  As professional sports leagues decide the best plan of action to restart to keep the integrity of the sport strong and its players safe, things remain on pause until that medium is met.

It certainly looks like the NBA is on track to get something started soon having been in discussions with the Walt Disney Co. to finish out the rest of the 2019-20 season in an isolated bubble of sorts at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex which is equipped with top-notch facilities and lodging right on the Disney World campus.

Major League Baseball is still mired in a mess of how owners and players will split the revenue that has been massively reduced because of the work stoppage and that fans — a huge source of incoming dollars at ballparks — won’t be coming through the turnstiles soon.  Baseball is losing $75 million a day as a result of the pandemic so they’re hurting big time to get things restarted as soon as possible.

The NFL is still far out although the offseason training programs have been cancelled but the official training camp for teams — about a month and a half away — has the possibility of moving forward as well as the start of the season on-time.

It’s just hard to envision fans being back in stadiums this year but the league that has the strongest possibility would be the NFL — possibly MLB — but we’ll have to see about that.

But while we wait for things to be jump-started and respective unions to sign-off on agreements, the Houston Texans are facing a problem this offseason with one of their best players.

Yes, inside linebacker Zach Cunningham will be a free agent after this season — he’s at the end of his rookie deal — and one of the team’s most budding and strongest players may not be able to be re-signed especially if they start to descend into salary cap hell.

Laremy Tunsil will already have a $22 million charge on the books for the next three seasons after this one and Deshaun Watson‘s mega-deal could be north of $40 million-plus over the next half-decade.  That might leave little money for marquee players like Cunningham but it’s all a matter of what he wants.

And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with Tunsil and Watson being paid as they are, they’ve earned and deserved it but with the talent this team has on board, eventually, you have to pay the piper and they’ll likely have to do it to retain Cunningham.

What’s the Houston Texans‘ salary cap situation?  The team currently has $17.9 million left to

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spend in 2020 and only $18.1 million in space available already on the books for 2021 and that’s without the ink being dry on the pact of any Watson deal.

There will be some tough decisions that will have to be made — do you try to trade Cunningham to get something for him before he walks?  Or do you let him play out the season with hopes pinned on being able to re-sign him after this season?

Either option is careful and deliberate walk across a tightrope and Bill O’Brien has to get this right.  Perhaps this season’s third-round pick in the NFL Draft, Jonathan Greenard, could be used but he’s actually more comfortable playing on the outside more often than not.

Cunningham is consistently one of Pro Football Focus’ strongest performers in terms of metrics so the numbers don’t lie, they need to find a way to retain him or find a replacement for him soon.

We’ll have to keep an eye out…

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Cunningham has accumulated 339 tackles — 220 solos — along with 15 tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, three fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, 13 passes defensed, one defensive touchdown and one interception through 46 games — 43 starts — in the past three seasons with the team.