Source: Texans reach deal with Azeez Al-Shaair, others

ESPN logo
Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Houston Texans moved to shore up their defense via free agency, reaching separate deals with linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, cornerback Jeff Okudah and defensive end Denico Autry.

Al-Shaair agreed to terms with Houston on Monday, a source confirmed to ESPN. It's a three-year deal worth $34 million, according to a report from NFL Network.

He signed a modest one-year, $5 million deal with the Tennessee Titans to become a starter last year after spending the past four seasons backing up Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw with the San Francisco 49ers.

Tennessee relied on Al-Shaair to relay the defensive play calls from the sideline to the huddle. The fifth-year veteran posted a career-high 163 tackles (fifth-best in the NFL), a Titans franchise record. Al-Shaair, 26, also had two sacks and four passes defended.

The Titans lost multiple starters to injury last season, but Al-Shaair was one of the mainstays for Tennessee as he started all 17 games. He also was a veteran leader in the locker room during a rough 6-11 season.

Al-Shaair signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2019 after a standout career at Florida Atlantic. In four seasons with San Francisco, Al-Shaair appeared in 56 games with 31 starts while amassing 191 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 11 stops for loss, 9 quarterback pressures, 2 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries over that span.

His breakout season came in 2021, when he filled in with 13 starts while Greenlaw was out due to injury. Al-Shaair had 102 tackles, 2 sacks, 9 stops for loss and 5 passes defensed.

Okudah, the 2020 third overall pick of the Detroit Lions in 2020 who was traded to the Atlanta Falcons last offseason, is signing a one-year deal worth up to $6 million, agents Kevin Conner and Robert Brown confirmed.

Autry, who finished with a career-high 11.5 sacks in 14 starts for the Tennessee Titans in 2023, agreed to a two-year, $20 million contract with the Texans, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

After recovering from a training camp injury, Okudah, 25, reclaimed the Falcons' starting corner job opposite A.J. Terrell and played in 13 games with 44 tackles and three passes defended.

He had a 65.5% completion rate against last season, according to Pro Football Reference, but was credited with not allowing a touchdown in coverage.

Atlanta eventually replaced Okudah in the starting lineup with rookie Clark Phillips III down the stretch, although the Falcons found specific, package-based roles for Okudah even when he was out of the lineup.

In his four-year career, Okudah has started 31 of his 38 games, notching 168 tackles with 13 passes defended, 2 interceptions and a pick-six. He has also dealt with injuries, including a groin issue during his rookie year in 2020 and a ruptured left Achilles in the 2021 opener.

Autry agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Texans, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

He spent the past three seasons in Tennessee after signing a three-year, $21.5 million deal with the Titans in 2021. In addition to his sack total, he added 17 quarterback hits and 12 tackles for loss last season.

Autry, 33, started 33 games for the Titans and posted 28.5 sacks, 54 quarterback hits and 30 tackles for loss. He is one of only four Titans pass-rushers to finish with nine or more sacks in two separate seasons.

He has 59 sacks, 7 forced fumbles and 3 recoveries for his career.

The Titans used Autry in multiple spots along the defensive front, ranging from an interior defender to a stand-up edge player. He was also a key part of the stunts and twists dialed up by Tennessee to pressure opposing quarterbacks. He was especially effective when teaming up with defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons.

Autry joined the Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State in 2014. He started 18 games in four seasons and posted 10.5 sacks over that span.

He signed a three-year, $17.8 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts in 2018 and had nine sacks in his first season. In his three seasons there, Autry posted 20 sacks in 37 games.

ESPN's Michael Rothstein and Turron Davenport contributed to this report.