Cushing flew to Houston on Saturday after agreeing to the deal and coach Gary Kubiak had expected him to make it to the practice. But the 15th overall draft pick wasn't finished taking his physical and signing his contract in time to make it.
"I think he's a real talented guy and I think he adds a lot of speed to our defense," Texans owner Bob McNair said. "I think that's the key for us this year, so I'm excited about having him here."
The Texans were happy to get Cushing's contract done so he wouldn't miss more practice time. He'd already been named a starter at outside linebacker during the offseason.
Cushing wasn't made available to the media, but Houston television station KRIV tracked him down as he landed at a local airport. He told the station he was unhappy about missing the team's first practices.
"Anytime your team is out there practicing and you're not there, especially as an unproven rookie, that's something you don't want to do," he said.
He joins a group of linebackers that includes 2006 Defensive Rookie of the Year DeMeco Ryans, who has started every game since joining the team. Ryans said he didn't figure Cushing would miss too much time dealing with his contract, but he was glad to know it was done.
"It's a good thing that he's getting in and getting here quick enough where he can get a lot of [repetitions] in so he can understand the system," Ryans said. "I think he can help us out a lot coming off the end and being a playmaker for us."
Cushing was a four-year starter at Southern California, where he had 74 tackles and three sacks as a senior.
The Texans believe he fits in perfectly with their plan to be more aggressive and attack in the first season under defensive coordinator Frank Bush, who replaced Richard Smith who was fired in the offseason.
"For what we want to do defensively and what we're trying to do with our front, he's a big part of the puzzle," Kubiak said. "He can play on the line of scrimmage very effectively. He can also play off. That's one of the reasons we drafted him."
The Texans hope he'll be key in turning around a defense filled with high draft choices -- including 2006 top overall pick Mario Williams -- but that ranked among the league's worst in 2008.
"He's a very physical young man, can go get the passer if he needs to," Kubiak said of Cushing. "We expect him to bring a physical presence to our defense. We're counting on him big time."