NFL

Texans sign perennial Pro Bowl punter Lechler

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Associated Press
3/23/2013 3:21:31 PM
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HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans have signed punter Shane Lechler.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed by the team Saturday. ESPN reported the deal was for three years and worth a maximum of $5.5 million, with a $1 million signing bonus.

The 36-year-old Lechler is the NFL's career leader in gross average per punt (47.3 yards) and has led the league in gross average in four seasons. He also ranks seventh in career net punting average (38.8 yards).

He's the second perennial Pro Bowler to join the Texans in two days. Safety Ed Reed was introduced at a news conference Friday after signing a three-year, $15 million deal.

Oakland drafted Lechler in the fifth round in 2000, and he'd spent his entire pro career with the Raiders. He's made seven Pro Bowls and had at least one punt of 50 yards or more in 33 consecutive games from 2003-05, the longest streak by any punter since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970.

He also has two of the top four punting average seasons in NFL history -- 51.1 yards in 2009 and 50.8 yards in 2011.

The Texans now have two kickers who played at nearby Texas A&M, the alma mater of coach Gary Kubiak. Houston drafted Randy Bullock in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. Bullock won the Lou Groza Award honouring the nation's best kicker, then sat out the 2012 NFL season after tearing a groin muscle during training camp.

Lechler played at Texas A&M from 1996-99, when R.C. Slocum was the Aggies' coach. Kubiak served as Slocum's running backs coach at A&M from 1992-93. Lechler, who was born in East Bernard, Texas, still holds the school records for single-season punt average (47.0 yards, in 1997) and career average (44.7 yards).

The Texans pursued Lechler when he was a free agent in 2009, but the Raiders signed him to a four-year contract worth $12 million, which made him the highest-paid punter in league history.

Last season, veteran Donnie Jones had a solid year for Houston, averaging 47.5 yards per punt, tying Lechler for 11th in the league. Lechler had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee during training camp last season.

Shane Lechler throws a pass (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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