If you have been following my work, then you know a few weeks back, that I mentioned in my Must Own 2nd Year IDPs article, that the release of ILB Brian Cushing was a possibility. Well, that possibility has now become a reality, as the Houston Texans have informed Cushing that he has been released. This has been coming for some time, with him unable to stay healthy and multiple PED suspensions. Then when you factor in that during his suspension, rookie Zach Cunningham stepped into his spot and performed exceptionally. Cushing’s release will save the Texans $7.64 million against the cap. They could use that space to help resign Jadeveon Clowney or Benardrick McKinney, who will become free agents in 2019. While Cushing is running out of chances, he will get another chance as a cheap free agent option.
With Cushing now out of the way, the starting gig is now officially Zach Cunningham’s. He has three more years left on his rookie deal and will cost them roughly $2.5 million over that time. Cunningham showed the Texans coaching staff just what they wanted to see and enough for them to decide to move on from Cushing a legit option. He filled in nicely during Cushing’s ten game suspension and never looked back. Zach had a wonderful rookie season, in which he recorded ninety total tackles. He also showed a nice improvement each week, including recording nine or more tackles in three of the last four games of the season. Cunningham will continue to man the middle and be a tackling machine, for the Texans. He has a star-studded cast around him, which will allow him to relax and just play.
What does this mean in fantasy terms? This makes him an LB1. I would predict that he will have a season very comparable to what Blake Martinez of Green Bay, had last year in his second season as a pro. Cunningham should rank among the leaders in tackles and a top 15 IDP fantasy season isn’t that far fetched.
Another player impacted by this cut is Dylan Cole. The Texans signed the UDFA, from Missouri St. He was an FCS All-American and led that division in tackles at 12.9. They have him under control for the next two seasons, for a very cheap $1.2 million. He saw limited action as a rookie, mostly as a special teamer, but he did receive increased playing time in the 2nd half of season. Cole performed very well, as he would record 32 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions and one of those he would return for a score. He would also have four games in which he would record five or more tackles. He did miss a few games in the middle of the season with a hamstring issue as well. There is a lot to like about this kid and with some free agent decisions to be made after next season, this will be a big audition year for him.
In the fantasy world, Cole is a great grab and stash candidate for dynasty leagues. He has the skill set to be a playmaker alongside Cunningham, in Houston’s 3-4 scheme. He will still be a backup, for the most part, this year, but he could be a hot pick up for 2019.
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