Some might take this the wrong way as pass-rusher Whitney Mercilus has been a staple for the Texans defense for years. But the 2018 season marked a new turn for Mercilus’ career.
Though Mercilus is undoubtedly talented, he had a down year in 2018 as he lacked a concrete role in the defense. The Texans have also groomed other, younger, cheaper pass-rushers that are knocking at the door for snaps. To further continue the argument to trade him, his contract is coming to an end come 2020. General manager Brian Gaine had the opportunity to extend him in April, but a deal didn’t materialize; leading fans to believe that their relationship might come to an end.
1. He’s not happy and didn’t perform well in 2018.
Romeo Crennel dropped Whitney Mercilus into coverage for the most time ever in his career. And according to Texans insider PatDStat, he’s not very pleased with the role change. His stats also dipped to a paltry 4 sacks and 39 tackles.
Yet, he is more talented than his production. He was the tertiary pass-rusher behind J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Mercilus has performed well when the defense centered closely to him, which should give a trade partner an incentive to acquire him.
2. Cap relief.
At the moment the Texans are sitting at around $67,000,000 in cap space. Though a significant portion of that space will go to resigning Clowney, Jackson, Tyranne Mathieu, and Ka’imi Fairbairn. After signing those players the Texans should be sitting at around $40,000,000 in cap space if they trade Mercilus an additional $6,250,000 in cap space would open up.
Not only would that cap space be useful in 2019 to sign big name free agents, but they could also roll it over to next year when signing Fuller V, Cunningham, Reader, and others to extensions becomes a need.
3. More draft picks.
Mercilus won’t haul in a 1st round pick, but he does have a lot of trade value. NFL teams are constantly searching for a quality pass rusher, and Mercilus is just that.
I believe he can reel in either a late 2019 2nd round pick or a combination of an early 2019 3rd and 6th round pick. There are some serious holes on the Texans roster, but Brian Gaine only has seven draft picks to work with currently. If Gaine sees Mercilus as a piece to acquire young talent they should do so.
4. Duke Ejiofor
Some might not know the name, but they will soon. The 2018 6th round draft pick has only accumulated one sack, but he is showing signs to be a steal as a situational pass rusher. Ejiofor started taking snaps away from Mercilus late in the season, which proves that the coaching staff sees something in him.
Ejiofor is built like an NFL edge rusher with a 6’4, 220 lb frame, with some serious speed to boot. But he’s not just a body. He knows how to use his hands properly and has an explosive first step, with an array of pass rushing moves. If the Texans trade away Mercilus, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ejiofor playing his role as a complementary pass-rusher alongside Watt and Clowney.