The Kansas City Chiefs will not be on a football field until July 25th, the opening day of training camp. Between then and now, most of the players will go home, work out and keep themselves fresh for a long season ahead.
As fans, this is a time to talk about anything and everything. Not much is happening around the league, except for some sure-fire arrests and a freak injury or two. In Kansas City, there are however a few stories to keep the pulse of. Here are the top three, in order:
1. Justin Houston's contract
Houston skipped all of the voluntary OTAs and mandatory minicamp, presumably for a new contract. Currently, Houston is on the last year of his rookie deal which pays him $1.4 million. While most of us would give a child for that amount of money, it is an insanely cheap price for the game's best outside linebacker.
Houston is likely negotiating through his representatives as we speak with general manager John Dorsey and the Chiefs brass. Figuring in recent contracts, Houston is probably trying for a deal in the five-year, $60-70M range with half of it guaranteed. He will get paid, the only question is when.
Personally, I don't care that he has missed OTAs and minicamp. Houston knows the system and has never been a guy to show up out of shape. Once he's back, I expect the same player we have seen since he arrived. However, I will become concerned if this deal isn't done by August.
NFL players always seem to get hurt or off to a very slow start when they miss too much training camp time. If Houston can get five weeks of work in, I'm confident we will see no ill effects. The two camps need to come to an agreement before training camp really gets going.
2. Andre Johnson's availability
As the Chiefs showed recently with the jettisoning of Brandon Flowers, good players can become available this time of year. One name to watch is Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans. Despite being 32 years old, Johnson remains one of the top receivers in football and should Houston cut him, he immediately becomes a huge get for a competing team.
Obviously, Kansas City needs help at the receiver position. Behind Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs have a mediocre player in Donnie Avery and a bunch of unproven commodities. Johnson would make this group incredibly better and turn Bowe into the best secondary receiver in football.
If the Texans do cut the disgruntled Johnson, he would no longer be earning a salary upwards of $10M. In fact, a team could ink him to a large, guaranteed signing bonus that does not count against the cap, keeping his base salary (and cap number), relatively low.
Johnson has stated he wants to play for a team competing for the Super Bowl. With him, the Chiefs are arguably in that mix. With the cutting of Flowers, Kansas City would have the money to make a run at him, especially if Houston's cap number stays low in 2014 with his new extension.
3. Does Alex Smith get paid?
I'll keep this one short and sweet. Smith has been the ultimate team guy and a true professional since coming into the NFL as a top overall pick for the San Francisco 49ers in 2004. Now, he is on the verge of the second massive contract of his career, and likely the last.
While it is easy for fans to say "play out the year and then get paid," Smith runs the risk of being crushed once and having his career end. Don't think it's likely? Ask Trent Green and Priest Holmes about it. Smith might see the Chiefs sign Houston and perhaps another free agent and wonder where his money is.
If that's the case, is Dorsey forced to pay Smith now? The last thing you want is an unhappy quarterback who feels unwanted and disrespected. Even if that feeling doesn't leave the locker room, it is still a serious issue.