Derek Rivers sought familiarity and scheme fit during free agency, and his connections drew him to the Texans.
The veteran defensive end was drafted in the third round in 2017 by the Patriots when Texans general manager Nick Caserio was working in New England as Bill Belichick’s right-hand man.
Rivers found a fast comfort level with the Texans, rejoining Caserio along with Texans executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby and former Patriots teammates Marcus Cannon, Terrence Brooks, Keion Crossen, Rex Burkhead, Ryan Izzo and Paul Quessenberry,
Signed to a one-year contract worth up to $1.35 million that includes a $100,000 signing bonus, Rivers is intrigued by his opportunity on a revamped roster.
“Why did I choose the Texans? Shoot, it just felt good,” Rivers said following a recent workout with private defensive line coach Brandon Jordan. “I felt like this is where God was calling me to come. It was a blessing to be here with some former teammates and people we’ve known throughout my career. It’s been awesome. Everyone we’ve met has been super relational, great organization.”
The Patriots drafted Rivers after he recorded a school-record 41 career sacks as an All-American at Youngstown State along with 55 ½ tackles for losses, 47 quarterback hurries and 119 solo tackles. Caserio's presence was an instrumental reason why Rivers picked the Texans along with having in place coach David Culley and defensive coordinator Lovie Smith.
“Nick is just an awesome guy,” Rivers said. “To know he’s here along with Lovie Smith and coach Culley, awesome guys, great organization, I’m just going to do the best I can to be a great teammate and try to build a winning culture here.”
The Texans are coming off a 4-12 season and have significantly overhauled their roster. Rivers is an extremely athletic 6-foot-5, 250-pound pass rusher with 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash who tore his anterior cruciate ligament as a rookie during a joint practice with the Texans at The Greenbrier.
Healthy now after finishing last season with the Los Angeles Rams, Rivers has played in 19 career games and has 2½ sacks, six quarterback hits and three tackles for losses. He’s slated to compete for playing time at defensive end in Smith’s 4-3 scheme.
“Whatever they want me to do, rush, play the run,” Rivers said, “However it may be, I’ll do it to the best of my abilities."
Rivers has been getting acclimated to the Texans’ defense and getting to know his new teammates. During a recent workout with Jordan Jenkins, Maliek Collins, Brandon Dunn and Jon Greenard, Rivers flashed athleticism with fast change of direction skills and explosiveness.
“We’ve got some good dudes out here,” Rivers said. “We’re excited. We started building that team camaraderie and just building that culture of the defensive line. These guys work hard and are great folks, great family men, great brothers on and off the field.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.