Houston Texans sign linebacker Zach Cunningham to nearly $60 million contract extension

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 15: Zach Cunningham #41 of the Houston Texans heads to the locker room after the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium on September 15, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) (Tim Warner, 2019 Tim Warner)

HOUSTON – The Texans season opener is 10 days away and General manager and head coach Bill O’Brien made sure one of the teams’ star players received the contract extension he was due.

KPRC sports confirmed Monday the linebacker was given a four-year extension worth $58 million.

Cunningham, 25, led the American Football Conference and ranked seventh in the NFL with a single-season, career-high 137 total tackles last season, which tied for the fourth most tackles by a player in team history. He had two games with a single-game, career-high of 16 total tackles, which tied for the most total tackles in a game by any player in the AFC.

The linebacker also set new single-season career highs in tackles for loss (seven), fumble recoveries (two), sacks (2.0) and quarterback hits (three). He was the only player in the NFL with over 100 defensive tackles (137) and five special teams tackles, and he became the seventh player since 2000 to record over 130 defensive tackles and five special teams tackles in a season.

Cunningham and linebacker Benardrick McKinney combined for 238 total tackles in 2019, which made them the first pair of Texans to each go over 100 total tackles in consecutive seasons since 2006-07 and the first teammates in the NFL to accomplish the feat since 2016-17.

Along with starting three postseason games for Houston, Cunningham has compiled 324 total tackles (213 solo), 15 tackles for loss, 13 passes defended, seven quarterback hits, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one interception returned for a touchdown in 46 career regular-season games (43 starts). He owns the second-most total tackles through a player’s first three seasons in franchise history after originally being drafted in the second round (57th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Vanderbilt.