The Texans have signed punter Shane Lechler, a seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro with the Oakland Raiders who has the highest gross punting average in NFL history.
Lechler, a 13-year NFL veteran, has a 47.5-yard career punting average. His career-long is 80 yards, a punt in 2011 that traveled 79 yards in the air. A native of East Bernard, Texas, Lechler played at Texas A&M and has lived in the Houston area in the offseason for years.
“Words can’t describe this,” Lechler said at Reliant Stadium on Saturday afternoon. “Getting to come home and play football, man, this is a dream come true. I was fortunate enough to play in the Silver and Black for 13 years and had a great time doing it. I always followed the Texans since they brought the franchise here. It’s just something that I’ve been looking forward to for a while.”
Lechler, 36, said he thought he was going to sign with the Texans in 2009 but couldn’t refuse late Raiders owner Al Davis’ four-year, $16-million contract, the richest ever for a punter. His current contract with the Texans is reportedly worth $5.5 million over three years with a $1 million signing bonus.
“When I hit free agency this year, I knew there was one place that I had in mind, and that was here,” Lechler said. “Luckily, it worked out; the situation has worked out. Everything fell into place.”
Lechler had at least one punt of 50 yards or more in 33 consecutive games from 2003 through 2005, the longest streak since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. He has allowed only two touchdowns on punts in lifetime, at any level. They came in consecutive weeks late in the 2007 season.
A fifth-round draft pick in 2000, Lechler was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2001, 2004 and from 2007-11. He was named first-team All-Pro in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010 and second-team All-Pro in 2001, 2007 and 2011.
“You’re going to have to be very lucky sometimes,” Lechler said. “I’ve been given a lot of God-gifted talent to be able to put that into situations where I can take advantage of some fields and some field position and stuff like that. As far as numbers go, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some pretty good ones.”
Lechler had arthroscopic surgery to repair meniscus damage on the first day of training camp in 2012. He finished the season with a gross average of 47.2 yards and net average of 39.0 yards.
“I feel way better than I did before the surgery, I’ll tell you that,” Lechler said Saturday. “One of my goals is to go 20 years, so I’ve still got a while to go. I feel like I can do it with no problem, barring any injury that comes out of nowhere.”
The Texans now have an all-Texas A&M kicking tandem with Lechler and kicker