Brian Cushing's deal a big step for Texans

Months ago as he walked away from a hot practice field after a practice in which he didn't participate, Houston Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing acknowledged to me that the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in Week 5 of last season happened at an especially inopportune time.

The summer before the final year of a player's contract is when the Texans redo deals (or try to) with players they want back. Cushing was absolutely one of those players.

Cushing wasn't someone they wanted to let go. The Texans' didn't need to see how he recovered from his knee injury, they'd already seen enough to know their future and Cushing's future were linked, and that re-signing him wasn't any risk at all.

Tuesday, the Texans signed Cushing to a six-year extension, locking him into the team through the 2019 season. The deal is worth $55.643 million with $21 million guaranteed. Houston needed to clear some cap space and did so by restructuring Andre Johnson's deal.

Johnson's cap number for 2013 was $14.852 million before the restructure. The restructure turned his $10.5 million 2013 salary into a $5 million base salary with a $5.5 million bonus. Bonuses count against the cap in equal amounts over the life of a contract (Johnson's goes through 2016) even if the bonus is paid immediately. Cushing's cap number for 2013 was set to be $4.643 million before his extension.

But enough about the numbers. Cushing means so much more than that to the Texans. As I've written many times, he's the heart of the Texans' defense. His presence will fix some of the problems the Texans' defense had in the second half of last season. And he'll provide the edge they need for years to come.