Neville Hewitt's presence boosts Texans' linebacker competition

When new general manager Nick Caserio was hired and began overhauling the Texans' roster, linebacker was one of his biggest priorities.

The Texans signed two potential new starters in experienced veterans Christian Kirksey and Kevin Pierre-Louis to play alongside $58 million man Zach Cunningham, the NFL's leading tackler last season, to operate in defensive coordinator Lovie Smith's conversion to a 4-3 alignment from a 3-4 base defense.

Caserio also signed former New York Jets linebacker Neville Hewitt to add another piece in what shapes up as an intriguing competition for starting jobs and depth opposite Cunningham. Hewitt started every game last season for the Jets and recorded a career-high 134 tackles along with two sacks, four passes defensed and one interception.

The Texans signed Hewitt earlier his month to a one-year, $1.7 million contract that includes $700,000 guaranteed, a $200,000 signing bonus, a $1 million base salary with $500,000 guaranteed for skill injury and salary cap and up to $500,000 total in per-game active roster bonuses with $29,411 per game active, according to NFL Players Association records. The deal includes an injury waiver. That's because Hewitt underwent neck surgery while attending Marshall before signing with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent.

New York Jets v Los Angeles Chargers

Days after the Texans signed Hewitt, another linebacker addition to go with fifth-round draft pick Garret Wallow, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Joe Thomas, Tae Davis and Hardy Nickerson, Texans chairman and chief operating officer Cal McNair praised the move and Caserio's other work in tandem with the Texans' personnel department and coaching staff.

"It’s exciting to see Nick work the roster," McNair said during the Texans' annual charity golf event. "You saw it early and we saw it just the other day with another acquisition, a linebacker from the Jets who’s a tackling machine. You’ll see him do that through the whole process. I don’t think he’ll ever quit. He’ll always be working to make the team better, which is exciting to see.”

A former undrafted free agent with the Miami Dolphins who has forged a seven-year NFL career, Hewitt has a history of overcoming adversity. Growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland, Hewitt dealt with his mother being incarcerated on a drug trafficking charge. He attended Georgia Military College before transferring to Marshall where he was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and recorded 208 tackles, 16 1/2 for losses 7 1/2 sacks and two interceptions in two seasons. 

After being cleared medically with the Dolphins and playing for them for three seasons, he worked his way up to become a starter with the Jets and started every game last season.

When Hewitt was playing for the Jets, he told reporters how he felt about the game.

"All I want to do is play football," he said. "We all want to get paid, but we're all here because we love this game. For me, every time I go out there it's about respect, trying to earn respect from my teammates and the people we're playing against.

"I told our guys to make a name for yourself, make the most of this opportunity because you never know what game, what day is going to be your last play. If you don't give it your all you're going to regret it."

Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He's on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.

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