Whitney Mercilus restructuring gives him a path to free agency after 2021

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Like many players, Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus has agreed to a restructured contract that shuffles money around and creates cap space. Unlike most players who do a so-called “simple” restructuring, Mercilus also gets a more immediate path to free agency.

Per a source with knowledge of the transaction, Mercilus has agreed to convert his $10.5 million base salary for 2021 into a $6 million signing bonus and a $4.5 million base salary. In exchange, the Texans wiped out 2022 and 2023, making them voidable years instead, for cap purposes.

Also, the contract includes a roster bonus based on his original $10.5 million base salary, in the event a 17th game is played in 2021 (it will be).

The move reduces Mercilus’ 2021 salary-cap number from $12 million to $8 million, pushing $4 million into a future cap year. It also means that, after 2021, Mercilus will become a free agent.

The arguably would have happened anyway, given base salaries of $12.75 million in 2022 and in 2023. However, the new deal gives Mercilus an early path to the market, preventing the Texans from squatting on Mercilus in the hopes of getting him to take less money or of trading him.