The move comes as the team continues its youth movement, while Mercilus will become a sought-after player by several teams.
Originally selected by Houston in the first round (26th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft, Mercilus appeared in 134 games (102 starts) as a Texan, third-most in franchise history. In 10 seasons with the team, the Akron, Ohio, native recorded 348 tackles (229 solo) and ranks second in franchise history in sacks (57.0), tackles for loss (72), quarterback hits (115), forced fumbles (13), fumble recoveries (eight) and multi-sack games (13). He also played in eight postseason games (five starts), recording 26 tackles (15 solo), seven tackles for loss and a franchise-record 7.0 sacks.
But this season, Mercilus has seen his numbers trend downward. He has only 12 tackles in six games, along with three sacks and four tackles for loss.
“There aren’t many players in franchise history who have impacted our organization and community the way Whitney Mercilus has,” Texans Chair and CEO Cal McNair said 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.”
In 2016, Mercilus earned Second-Team All-Pro honors from The Associated Press as a linebacker after tying for the league lead with four fumble recoveries and leading the Texans with 7.5 sacks.
Mercilus is also a two-time AFC Defensive Player of the Week, having won the award in Week 1 of the 2016 season and Week 2 of the 2019 season, and was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in December of 2015 after compiling 17 tackles (10), 5.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in five games.