The Houston Texans decided to release their all-time tackling leader, Brian Cushing, this last Tuesday. The release follows a disastrous 2017 season for Cushing, who got suspended 10 games for his second PED violation. This violation, coupled with repeated injuries, gave the Texans little choice but to release one of the best defenders in team history.
A New Jersey native and standout at USC, Cushing was drafted by the Texans 15th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. In his ensuing rookie season, Cushing was crowned defensive rookie of the year and was voted into the Pro Bowl. Ever since that rookie season, Cushing has been a mainstay with the Texans, and currently has the most tackles in Texans history with 664.
Logistically, releasing Cushing was a smart move by Texans general manager Brian Gaine. This transaction saves the Texans 7.6 million dollars against the salary cap, which can further help them acquire free agents that they desperately need.
Furthermore, there is more than enough talent to replace Cushing on the Texans roster: Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, Benardrick McKinney, Dylan Cole, and Zach Cunningham make up one of the better linebacker units in the NFL. The Texans also have three additional compensatory picks, which allows them to acquire further depth at linebacker through the draft.
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Another reason that the Texans released Cushing is that he was starting to become older and was declining in productivity. Now at 31 years old, Cushing has suffered multiple major injuries, including an ACL tear right before he received his 58.643 million dollar extension in 2013, which made him the highest-paid middle linebacker at the time. On top of the injuries is that Cushing hasn’t had more than two sacks since 2011 or more than 4 tackles per game since 2013.
Since Cushing is injury-prone, becoming inefficient, has talent to replace him, and costs a lot of money, releasing him was the smart decision to make. But there is another aspect of Brian Cushing that not many people are taking into account: he is a leader for the Texans defense, deeply involved in the Houston community, and beloved by Texans fans.
A middle linebacker by trade, Cushing was often in the middle of defensive huddles and leading the Texans defense into battle. He was highly respected throughout the locker room, with head coach Bill O’Brien often characterizing him as the “heart and soul” of the defense.
Cushing is heavily involved in the Houston community as well, with his foundation helping veterans in the greater Houston area and their families. He was also heavily involved in recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, donating 50,000 dollars to first responders and military members involved. Currently residing a half-hour away from Houston, Brian Cushing is firmly entrenched in the community.
Because of what Cushing has done for the Texans and Houston as a whole, he’ll be a Texan for life.
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) February 20, 2018