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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – It has been a whirlwind four weeks for Texans first-round pick Whitney Mercilus trying to make the transition from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker.
While focusing on improving on the field during OTAs and mini-camp, Mercilus tried to block out the ongoing contract negotiations between his agent and the Texans as difficult as that may have been. But now the 26th overall pick out of Illinois can really put all his focus on the field and beginning his new life as a rich NFL player after he and the Texans agreed Thursday to a four-year contract.
Mercilus will make $7.634 million, with $6.55 guaranteed and a signing bonus of $3.99 million, according to the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain.
“I finally got it signed,” Mercilus said as he smiled following the final day of three-day minicamp. “It’s great to get it off my mind and just concentrate straight on football and everything. Just more concentrating instead of having a monkey on my back, no doubt and just getting in front of the fans.”
Getting Mercilus signed is huge because that means he will be in training camp on time when the team reports July 27th. Mercilus, who is transitioning from a traditional 4-3 defensive end position to outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme, is expected to eventually fill the void left by Mario Williams and work into a three-man rotation with Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed this season.
“I tell you what, that’s a nice relief for us,” said Texans general manager Rick Smith, who along with head coach Gary Kubiak also received contract extensions Thursday. “In some respects, it’s better for (Vice President, Football Administration) Chris Olsen because he’s the guy in the trenches doing all the contract negotiations. He does a fantastic job and again, is doing another fantastic job with our draft class.
“We’ve got two more guys to get signed and I’m confident that we’ll get that done before we go to camp.”
Just Wednesday Mercilus seemed uncertain how contract negotiations were going or when his deal might be done. But within 24 hours his deal was complete.
“I wasn’t concerned about it,” he said. “I knew it was going to get done eventually because the new CBA is already set and locked up and they traditionally do it their way and all that. My agent fought for it and we finally got it signed.”
Mercilus is the most critical of the rookies draft picks to be signed because he is expected to contribute early with the team in need of a speed rusher off the edge to replace Williams. Mercilus showed some promise during the three-week OTAs and also during this week’s mini-camp.
The real test will come at the end of next month when the team reports for fall camp and the pads come on. But to this point he seems to be catching on pretty well.
“I’ve grown up a lot, pretty fast, too,” said Mercilus, who led the nation last season as a junior with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles. “They shot it straight at us really fast, a hundred miles per hour and it’s a lot of information to take in. But it was our time for these three days of the mini-camp to actually grow up and graduate and basically go out here and execute what they call.”