First-Round Pick Mercilus Becomes Sixth Drafted Player To Sign With Houston Texans In 2012

By Dory LeBlanc

The Houston Texans were busy Thursday.

While the rookies and new additions were wrapping up the final practice of a three-day mini-camp at the Methodist Training Center, the front office was extending the contracts of head coach Gary Kubiak and General Manager/Executive Vice President Rick Smith.

The Texans weren’t done.

At the team offices at Reliant Stadium, first-round (26th overall) pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Whitney Mercilus, inked his signature on a four-year deal worth a reported $7.6 million, $6.55 million guaranteed, with a $3.99 million signing bonus.

The Texans, who recently gave a new contract to team president Jamey Rootes and named vice chairman Cal McNair chief operating officer, took heat in March after letting DE/OLB Mario Williams leave for free agency. Williams signed a six-year deal worth potentially $100 million with the Buffalo Bills 10 days after Houston relieved fans when they locked in running back Arian Foster for five years, $43.5 million.

Mercilus, who led the FBS in sacks last year with 16 and nine forced fumbles, became an elite pass-rusher in only one year as a starter for the Illinois Fighting Illini. For the Illini Mercilus played defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, and will shift to outside linebacker in Wade Phillips’ one-gap 3-4 defense. Mercilus will have time, albeit limited, to adjust to the transition as he is expected to form a three-man rotation with Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. Mercilus is the sixth drafted player to sign with the team, and only third round draft picks WR DeVier Posey and OG Brandon Brooks remain without a contract.

Also signed by the Texans last week were DE/OLB Keith Browner Jr. and fullback Moran Norris. Browner is the son of former NFL star Keith and went undrafted in 2011. He played defensive end before switching to outside linebacker in the University of California’s 3-4 defense.  Norris, a Houston native, was claimed by the Texans off of waivers in 2002 and remained with the team until his release following the 2005 season. He was signed by the San Francisco 49ers shortly thereafter aided RB Frank Gore to a 1,695 yard Pro-Bowl season in 2006. After a one-year stint with the Detroit Lions in 2008, Norris returned to San Francisco on a three-year deal. Now back in his native Houston, Norris will add depth to a FB corps that boasts H-back James Casey, Derrell Smith, and undrafted rookie Jason Ford.

Signing Posey has to be top priority since the Texans did not sign Mike Sims-Walker after he attended the three-day mini-camp on a tryout basis, and the team is thin at wide receiver.

Curiously, WR Dwight Jones is still listed on the Texans’ roster. After Jones missed OTAs in late May, it was reported the undrafted rookie out of North Carolina told the team that he was quitting football.  With Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter the only Steel Blue wideouts to catch NFL passes, it is possible Kubiak is willing to give the red-flagged receiver a second chance.

That is, if he wants one.


For more from Dory, follow her on twitter @DoryLeBlanc1



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