Once regarded as a cornerstone for the Houston Texans' offensive line, six-year veteran right tackle Todd Wade was released Friday evening, ending two seasons marked by inconsistency, injury and a big financial investment that went sour for the team.
The Texans also released a pair of linebackers, rookie Fred Brock and two-year veteran Terry Pierce, but their departures were inconsequential compared to the exit of Wade after only two seasons.
Houston acquired Wade as an unrestricted free agent in the spring of 2004, rewarding the former Miami Dolphins starter with a six-year, $30 million contract that included a $10 million signing bonus. Over two years, the Texans paid Wade $12 million in bonuses and salaries, but he never lived up to expectations as the Houston line continued to struggle.
Wade, 29, appeared in 14 games in 2004, his first season in Houston, starting 13 times at right tackle. He started the first nine contests in 2005 but then suffered a torn knee ligament and was placed on injured reserve for the balance of the season. But even when healthy, Wade's sub-par performances were symbolic of the longstanding problems of a porous Texans offensive line.
Rather than continue to fund Wade's big contract and with him still rehabilitating from knee surgery, team officials decided to cut their losses. Wade still had four seasons remaining on the lucrative free-agent deal he signed in 2004, at salaries of $3.5 million (2006), $4.5 million (2007), $5 million (2008) and $5 million (2009). By releasing him the Texans saved $18 million in base salaries.
The departure of Wade all but assures that the Texans will start an offensive line unit in 2006 that will have new players at all five positions. Houston signed former Green Bay Packers starting center Mike Flanagan to anchor the unit, switched the positions of two other starters and chose two tackles in the third round of the draft. The likely replacement for Wade is 11-year veteran Zach Wiegert, who recently signed a contract extension and whose resume includes 128 starts split between guard and tackle.
It will be the task of former Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman, who was hired as assistant head coach by Gary Kubiak, to cobble together a workable unit from the diverse components.
A former University of Mississippi standout, Wade was chosen by the Dolphins in the second round of the 2000 draft. In four seasons with Miami, he appeared in 63 games, all starts, before signing with the Texans in 2004. At the time, some talent evaluators in the league, while conceding Wade probably represented an upgrade for Houston, questioned the size of the contract the Texans gave him.
Pierce was a second-round choice of the Denver Broncos in 2003, played in 18 games in two seasons with the Broncos but was released before the start of last season. Out of the league in 2005, the former Kansas State defender signed with the Texans as a free agent this spring in hopes of resurrecting his career. Brock was added as an undrafted college free agent.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.