30-Year-Old Linebacker – Free Agent
2017 Fantasy Football Outlook
Long considered the heart of Houston's defense, Cushing's production has dropped off in recent years. You can chalk that up to knee injuries that wiped out his 2012 and 2013 seasons. At 30-years-old a...
Brian Cushing Contract Information:
Released by the Texans in February of 2018.
The Texans officially released Cushing on Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.
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Age is determined on September 1st of each season.
Brian Cushing: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
If J.J. Watt is the face of Houston's defense, Cushing is the heart. And, as the signal-caller, he's the mind. Cushing has wrestled with multiple knee surgeries that limited him to 12 games in 2012 and 2013, and he never really got over them until 2015. He was Houston's leading tackler with 110 last season while playing all 16 games. There's always a chance the 29-year-old with balky knees somewhat loses his effectiveness, but the plan is to have Cushing patrol the middle for Houston's defense in 2016.
Once one of the game's most promising players, Cushing has fallen upon bad injury luck the last few years. A torn ACL in 2012 was followed by a break and torn LCL in the same leg in 2013, and he missed two games last year with a knee injury. He also needed minor surgeries to his wrist, left knee and left ankle after the 2014 season. If Cushing's injury luck turns, however, he'll be a probable IDP factor given that he averaged roughly 108 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions per year in his first three seasons.
Cushing would likely be a candidate for the top-10 among IDP linebackers if his health could be guaranteed. Unfortunately, it cannot. He suffered a torn ACL in Week 5 of the 2012 season, and then suffered a broken leg and torn LCL in the same leg in Week 7 last season. That injury risk leaves him with a fairly low floor, but the upside is considerable when he's on the field. He has 402 tackles in 56 career games, which projects to about 115 per 16-game season. He's also among the league's best sources for sack and interception production, with 12 and eight in his career, respectively.
Cushing would perhaps rank higher were he not returning from an ACL tear that occurred in Week 5 last year. He's a Pro Bowl-caliber talent when healthy and makes an impact in the tackle, sack and interception categories, so there's definite upside here. Cushing averaged 124 tackles between the two full seasons he's played in Houston (2009 and 2011), and he also posted eight sacks and six interceptions between these two years. Cushing is expected to be healthy for training camp, but even if he's not at full strength to begin the season he could still approach 120 tackles by default because the Texans lack talent at inside linebacker.
Cushing is a better on-field player than IDP at this point, so don’t expect his production to return to his rookie-year level, when he totaled 133 tackles (86 solo), four sacks and four interceptions. This is due to Houston’s clock-eating offense and that the Texans defense does a good job of getting off the field. That said, Cushing’s playmaking abilities shine through, as he finished last year with 114 stops (76 solo), four sacks and two interceptions. The selection of outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus in the first round of the draft ensures Houston will keep Cushing exclusively on the inside, where most of the tackle opportunities are.
Cushing's 2010 season was badly compromised by his four-game suspension for alleged illegal PED use, but he should be back to posting big numbers in 2011. Houston is switching to a 3-4 defense despite a potential lack of the necessary personnel on the defensive line, meaning Cushing and his fellow linebackers could see more tackle opportunities than usual if runners are allowed to breeze past the line of scrimmage. His value is further aided by the fact that he's expected to work occasionally as a pass rusher, meaning he'll have a chance to add a decent sack total to what should be standout tackle production. Considering his size/speed/strength combination, Cushing should be able to thrive both on the inside and out, and he's a good IDP target at linebacker as a result.
Cushing would rank much higher on this list based on his rookie season alone — he racked up 134 tackles, five sacks and four interceptions and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year by the AP. But this spring, we learned that Cushing failed a drug test during that campaign and will sit out the first four games of 2010 for violating the NFL’s PED policy. We’ll leave the moralizing about his transgression to the Peter Kings of the world and skip to the numbers, which tell us that 12 games worth of Cushing — plus four games of replacement-level production — should still be a better IDP option than a full season of most linebackers out there.
Cushing will start at strongside linebacker, which is typically Mario Williams' side. With linemen focusing on Williams so much, there may be a few sack opportunities for Cushing.