It’s no secret that the Houston Texan’s defense is the leading cause in the team’s arsenal of weaponry as well as their post season hopes. Inside linebacker, Brian Cushing has been with the teams since 2009 and although he signed a six-year, $55 million contract in 2013, he could be playing for another team if he doesn’t raise eyebrows this year. As the draft edges closer, the Texans are being tied up in rumors around several linebacker prospects, making the possibility of considering a Cushing trade, all the more appealing.
Cushing avoided sustaining major injuries last season for the first time in the past three years, a feat that could help him convince the Houston front office to shell out the rest of his contract happily. The rest of his future with the team will depend on his stat sheet throughout 2015.
As for the approaching draft, the Texans only legitimate needs (wide receiver, cornerback, offensive lineman) can be met in later rounds of the draft, so general manager Rick Smith has a few more options than usual available in the first round. Linebackers Justin Tuggle, Mike Mohamed and Whitney Mercilus all become free agents, come 2016. this means the Houston staff will be faced with several decisions at linebacker this upcoming season.
Should the Texans draft a linebacker like Vic Beasley in the first round their defense would look even scarier, the pressure will undoubtedly be on Cushing to produce sacks, pass deflections and most importantly, provide man coverage to help the secondary from bleeding too badly over the middle. Stopping the run for Cushing, is a given. It’s the passing game that the coaching staff will likely use to judge Cushing’s value.
If Houston looks to replace Cushing or at the very least, add some insurance on the depth chart, the question that will come up most will be whether to invest in a promising, young rookie or an aspiring three or four-year man who has some experience and is showing signs of developing. With the wrist surgery Cushing underwent during this past offseason, you have to think the thought has crossed a few minds behind closed doors in Houston.
Should Rick Smith not draft a linebacker this year, the pressure will still be on Cushing to stay off of trade talks as the Texans are forced to pay more and more money to him over the next two years.