Houston and Miami have a deal: Texans are trading LB Benardrick McKinney to the Dolphins for LB Shaq Lawson, per league sources. The deal also will include a swap of late-round picks, but the focus is the LBs.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2021
The teams are also swapping late-round picks in the deal. Miami is sending out a 2021 sixth-round pick and receiving back a 2021 seventh-round pick, sources told ESPN.
The trade cannot be made official until the start of the league year, which begins Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.
The Dolphins have long admired McKinney, who should slide in as a starting inside linebacker opposite Jerome Baker and fill a void vacated by the release of Kyle Van Noy and the pending free-agency departures of Kamu Grugier-Hill and Elandon Roberts. The Texans get an upgrade at edge rusher by acquiring Lawson, who had four sacks last season while playing outside linebacker and is a tough, reliable run defender.
The move comes after Houston signed linebacker Christian Kirksey to a one-year deal worth up to $4.5 million. McKinney, who signed a five-year, $50 million contract in 2018, didn't have any guaranteed money left on the final three years of his contract. He's due $7.2 million in 2021.
McKinney, a Pro Bowler in 2018, played in only four games in 2020 before undergoing shoulder surgery.
In 2020, Houston signed inside linebacker Zach Cunningham to a four-year, $58 million contract. Before the Texans traded McKinney, the pair were set to combine for more than 10.5% of the Texans' total cap in 2021.
Lawson signed a three-year, $30 million deal with Miami last March, and he's now the second significant multiyear free-agent signing the Dolphins have parted with after one season, joining Van Noy. Lawson, who is set to make $8.5 million in 2021, didn't quite provide the pass rush production the team was hoping for in his one year in Miami.
The Dolphins fill their hole at inside linebacker while creating a bigger hole at edge rusher, where only Emmanuel Ogbah and Andrew Van Ginkel remain as key contributors. This could signal Miami's expectation to be active at that position in free agency.
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ESPN's Sarah Barshop contributed to this report.