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Texans Target Darnell Mooney Signs Three-Year Deal With Falcons

The Houston Texans will need to target another wide receiver after Darnell Mooney signed a long-term deal with the Atlanta Falcons.

Another potential Houston Texans free agent is headed elsewhere in 2024. 

Former Chicago Bears star Darnell Mooney and the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms on a three-year, $39 million deal Tuesday morning before deals become official Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. He now joins a loaded offense with new quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Bijan Robinson, wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts.

Mooney, one of the Bears' breakout players from the Ryan Pace regime, was expected to leave in free agency following a 7-10 finish in the NFC North, and Houston was an expected destination. The Texans are in the market for a No. 3 receiver after mixed play from Noah Brown, John Metchie III, Xavier Hutchinson and others. 

Oct 30, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) runs for a first down in the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Oct 30, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) runs for a first down in the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Drafted out of Tulane in the fifth round, Mooney proved to be a reliable pass-catcher while working with multiple quarterbacks. His best season came in 2021 when he totaled 81 catches for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns amid a Justin Fields injury and inconsistent quarterback play. 

Last season, Mooney's production took a dip in the passing game with the arrival of Pro Bowler D.J. Moore. As part of the trade from Carolina to move up for the No. 1 pick, Moore became Justin Fields' favorite target with 96 catches for 1,364 yards and eight touchdowns. 

Mooney finished with a career-low 31 catches for 414 yards and a touchdown in 2023. He also missed five games in 2022 due to a season-ending ankle injury suffered in Week 12. 

Houston might not be looking to spend big money at the receiver position with breakout star Nico Collins entering a contract year. He's interested in signing a long-term deal after totaling a career-high 1,297 yards and would love to be the No. 1 weapon for C.J. Stroud moving forward as an AFC contender. 

"I feel like that’s what everybody works for," Collins told KPRC2 last month. "I’m just going to let it come to me, whatever they decide, whatever they want to do. I’m going to let it ride. Me, I’m going to continue to get better and work on my game. If they want to negotiate, we can.”

General manager Nick Caserio didn't downplay talks of a possible extension and seemed optimistic the two sides could come together for a deal before his contract up. But Caserio also made it clear that the sights right now are on signing players for the impending season rather than worrying about something that could be settled down the line. 

"We’ll see,” Caserio said. “We’ll focus on our free agents, working with the process with them. We have as many free agents as any team, so we’ve had a lot of constructive dialogue with a number of representatives and agents.

“And I think we’ll focus on the players that are free agents now, and once we get through free agency into the spring, we’ll see where we are. 

A former third-round pick of Michigan in 2021, Collins became the third receiver to total 1,200 yards in a single season, joining Hall of Famer Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. 

Stroud, who won Offensive Rookie of the Year, should be well-equipped to build off his record-setting season. Collins is back. So is rookie speedster Tank Dell. Houston also agreed to terms with tight end Dalton Schultz on a three-year, $36 million deal prior to the franchise tag deadline. 

Houston also re-signed Brown to a one-year deal following a productive season as the No. 4 target. 

On Tuesday, the Texans bolstered their running back room by trading for Cincinnati Bengals Pro Bowler Joe Mixon. The trade details have not been announced as of this time, but the 27-year-old is coming off another 1,000-yard campaign and should be an upgrade of Dameon Pierce. 

Mooney would have been a find for Houston, but there are other options on the open market. Don't expect the Texans to bring in talents like Calvin Ridley or Odell Beckham Jr., but Tyler Boyd, Curtis Samuel, Josh Reynolds, or K.J. Osborn.