After trading DeAndre Hopkins when he wanted a raise, Texans sign LB Zach Cunningham to $58M extension

Nick Bromberg
·3 mins read

The Texans weren’t willing to give WR DeAndre Hopkins a raise. But Houston showed on Sunday that it was very willing to spend to keep LB Zach Cunningham.

According to multiple reports, the Texans and Cunningham agreed to a four-year extension worth $58 million and over $23 million guaranteed. That’s an average of $14.5 million over the life of the contract if it’s fully realized.

Hopkins, as you may remember, was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in March along with a fourth-round pick for RB David Johnson, a second-round pick and a future fourth-round pick. Hopkins, who is making $12.5 million in 2020, wanted more money from the Texans and coach and GM Bill O’Brien after posting consecutive seasons with over 100 catches.

Hopkins’ current salary is $2 million less than the average of Cunningham’s new extension with the Texans. And his new contract demands weren’t preposterous either. He reportedly wanted a new deal from the Texans worth between $18-20 million per year. Or, roughly, $5 million more per season than what the Texans could possibly pay Cunningham over the next four seasons.

Zach Cunningham had 142 tackles in 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Zach Cunningham had 142 tackles in 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Cunningham gets huge raise

Cunningham was picked by the Texans in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft and was entering the final season of his rookie deal. Before the extension, Cunningham had a cap hit of $1.4 million.

Hopkins, meanwhile, has two more seasons left on his current contract as part of an extension he signed with the team in 2017. Even if you don’t agree with it, you can at least partially understand why the Texans would be reticent to extend a guy with that many years left on his deal.

But Hopkins reportedly wasn’t asking to be the top-paid wide receiver in the NFL. And he’s one of the best at his position. Cunningham, meanwhile, ranked 15th out of 55 qualifying linebackers with at least 600 snaps in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus.

Cunningham’s cap hit will likely get bigger as the deal goes on. But his $14.5 million average would rank sixth among all linebackers in base salary in 2020 and the highest-paid inside linebacker. All of the guys above him on that list like Von Miller and Matt Judon rush the passer. Cunningham has 3.5 sacks in three seasons with the Texans. He’s not asked to blitz that often.

Instead, he makes tackles all over the field. Cunningham led the team with 142 tackles in 2019 and had over 100 tackles in 2018. He’s a very good defensive player. But his new contract also means it’s fair to continue question O’Brien and the Texans’ contractual wisdom.

– – – – – – –

Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

More from Yahoo Sports: