Shane Lechler is going home, while at the same time finding it hard to leave home.
The seven-time Pro Bowl punter agreed to terms Friday with the Houston Texans, and said in a phone interview he will sign the contract Saturday. His departure, at age 36 and with a team looking to cut costs, is not a surprise.
“When I had zero contract talks throughout the year, or to this date _ to now _ yeah, I figured it was done,’’ Lechler said.
ESPN reported Lechler would receive a $1 million bonus and a maximum of $5.5 million over three seasons _ dramatically more than the Raiders plan on paying Marquette King, who was retained on injured reserve last season when it became clear they were going in a different direction in 2013.
When Lechler was last up for free agency following the 2008 season, the Texans were poised to strike, only to be foiled when late owner Al Davis kept Lechler on the Raiders with a four-year, $16 million contract _ the most ever paid to a punter.
Four years later, it was clear the Raiders were moving in a different direction, and so was Lechler.
“It was somewhere I’ve wanted to play. This is home for me. I don’t have to move my kids back and forth to school, and they’re at an age where it affects them a little bit,’’ Lechler said. “My family is here. My wife’s family is here. I’ve got both sets of grandparents still alive and they can come to games.
“It wasn’t the easiest thing leaving Oakland. Having been there 13 years, it’s hard to walk away from, especially with the friends I’ve made. It’s just time, I think.’’
Lechler is forever indebted to Al Davis for making him a fifth-round draft pick the same year he took place kicker Sebastian Janikowski, making him essentially the heir to the throne of Ray Guy as an all-time great punter for both the Raiders and the NFL.
At the same time, Lechler didn’t shy away form criticism when he disagreed with the direction of the franchise _ something he said he learned from Davis.
“I think it was my second year in the league. I asked him a question and I made the mistake of telling him what I thought he wanted to hear and he said, `Shane, as long as we have a relationship, and it’s a good one, do not tell me what you think I want to hear. Tell me what you think.,’’ Lechler said.
“We had our differences about coaches, differences about special teams coaches. But he let me speak my mind and yet he did what he was going to do. I could only honor that and appreciate that from him.’’
Lechler said he came to respect Davis’ inclination to operate as he pleased, without being influenced by outside opinion.
The repeated “tuck rule’’ references from the ruling this week that erases the rule that doomed the Raiders in 2001 against the Patriots will never be forgotten.
“That was a moment in time where you think, `God, the NFL hates us,’ ‘’ Lechler said.
As far as the future of the franchise, Lechler will leave the details to general manager Reggie McKenzie but admits to some reservations.
“I can see where a lot of good parts got out of there,’’ Lechler said. “Somebody that flourished in the last year-and-a-half like (tight end) Brandon Myers, to let him get away, is kind of a shock to me. But I guess Reggie has a plan to build this team the way he wants and I wish him the best of luck.’’
Regarding his experience with the Raiders, Lechler said, “There was just so many things that were really, really good about it. And though we didn’t have the success the last 10 years, it was still one of those things, you still went out every Sunday with a lot of pride and played as hard as you could. Sometimes it didn’t just work out for us.”