Kansas City Chiefs GM John Dorsey was a busy, busy man at the 2014 NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Not only was he talking with Branden Albert's reps about a new contract and Alex Smith's camp about an extension, but according to CBS Sports Jason La Canfora, Dorsey also began talks with Justin Houston's reps about an extension, presumably a long-term one.
Amid all the contract extensions going on, don't forget about Justin Houston. The Chiefs certainly haven't. Talks got rolling at combine— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 1, 2014
Houston was a 2011 third round pick who has clearly outperformed his contract, which has one year left on it (the 2014 season) and will pay him $645,000. From that perspective, La Canfora's report is not surprising in the least bit. Houston is an obvious long-term contract candidate. Everyone knew this was coming.
When could they get a deal done?
There is a huge range on when this could actually go down. This could happen before training camp this year. Or the Chiefs could have him play out his contract, franchise tag him in 2015 and do a deal before the 2016 season. I suspect KC will want to do this as soon as possible, same with Houston, but we're talking about a lot of money. These things take time.
How much will it cost?
Now that we've begun to answer the question of when this could happen, I start to wonder how much it will cost. The franchise tag is usually a good jumping off point and the linebacker tag this year is $11.5 million. Next year that number will be higher. And the year after that, too. Tamba Hali signed a five-year, $57 million deal in 2011. Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley signed a six-year, $61 million deal in 2011. My guess is that Houston's looking at similar deals, over $10 million per year.
What makes it difficult to project is that the salary cap is rising dramatically, up $9 million this year and reportedly up another $10 million next year.
Tamba Hali's future
The other part of this will be unfortunate for fans of a long-time Chiefs player. With the Chiefs bumped up against the salary cap, it doesn't seem realistic that they will keep Tamba Hali on the team after Houston gets paid. It's tough to keep two $10+ million a year pass rushers, especially when you don't have one your quarterback under a third round rookie deal (lookin' at you, Russell Wilson).