The Houston Texans officially parted ways with longtime defensive end Whitney Mercilus, releasing the 31-year old on Tuesday after 11 seasons with the franchise. After being drafted by the team with the No. 26 overall pick in the first round back in 2012, Mercilus appeared in 134 games (third most in franchise history) and recorded 57 sacks (second most in franchise history).
"There aren't many players in franchise history who have impacted our organization and community the way Whitney Mercilus has," said Texans owner Cal McNair in a statement. "I can recall a number of times over the last 10 seasons where he stepped up for us on the field with a sack or big play in a crucial moment, but it was his unique connection with the Houston community that made him one of the most popular players in franchise history. Our fan base gravitated to Whitney from day one and he always found ways to give back and serve through his foundation and culinary work. My family and the entire organization will always consider Whitney a Texan."
While speaking to Aaron Wilson of SportsTalk 790, Mercilus said his release from the Texans was a "mutual" decision. As for where he wants to end up next, Mercilus said "it's definitely being with a team that has a chance to make it to the playoffs and has a chance to make it to the Super Bowl and to be with a contender, honestly."
With that in mind, here are three teams that could make sense for his next step in his NFL career.
The Chiefs defense has major issues and is allowing an NFL-worst 6.7 yards per play this season. The club also grades dead last in the league in pressure, according to Pro Football Focus, and has a league-low seven sacks on the year. Needless to say, they could use a veteran like Mercilus, who has three sacks on the year through six games. K.C. would also fit the bill as a destination that has Super Bowl potential as the Chiefs were just battling out for a Lombardi a year ago and, if they get their defense correct, could be in contention once again.
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The Chargers are currently atop the AFC West and looking to make big waves in Justin Herbert's second year in the league. While they grade as a top-10 defense in pressure by PFF, they are just the 19th-ranked defense in the NFL in DVOA, per Football Outsiders. L.A. has been dreadful against the run this season, allowing the most rushing yards in the NFL through the first six weeks. Mercilus hasn't been prolific at stopping the run this season, but adding more playmakers on defense should help the Chargers continue to make a push and seriously contend in the AFC.
Do they need him? Nope. Is it always good to have depth as you try to repeat at champions? Of course. The Buccaneers seem to be a place where veterans that are starving for a championship have flocked to in the aftermath of Tom Brady landing with the franchise. Mercilus would put himself arguably in the best possible position to win a championship, but it may come with the cost of having a limited role within Bruce Arians' defense. Tampa Bay's needs are primarily in the secondary, but it never to hurts to add some pass-rushing depth.