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First year cap space is why Chiefs want to avoid the franchise tag with Justin Houston

Kansas City wants to avoid the franchise tag if at all possible. With Justin Houston, it's likely not possible.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It's the easy answer. If Justin Houston can't be signed to a long-term deal before March 2, no big deal, just slap the franchise tag on him.

This is the rhetoric of so many around the National Football League, ranging from commentators to fans. It's short-sighted, especially if you are pulling for the Kansas City Chiefs to win a Super Bowl before we are all dead.

General manager John Dorsey is going to be working hard this week. Dorsey has already started, cutting receivers A.J. Jenkins and Donnie Avery to create just under $5 million in cap space. Kansas City is a few million under the cap if the limit comes in at the projected figure of $140 million.

Houston will receive the franchise tag. So why does that hurt? The tag comes with a cap hit of roughly $13 million guaranteed, whereas a contract of length can be manipulated.

Dorsey was reportedly been speaking with Houston's agent, Joel Segal, at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this past week. It is expected that Segal is looking for top-dollar, and he should be. Houston had 22 sacks in 2014, only a half-sack shy of the all-time single-season record. Additionally, Houston is the best run defender at his position in the league. Segal would be within reason to ask for six years and $100 million.

On the Chiefs front, Houston can't be allowed to walk. If no deal is reached by March 2. Houston will receive the franchise tag. So why does that hurt? The tag comes with a cap hit of roughly $13 million guaranteed, whereas a contract of length can be manipulated. Even if the sides came to agree on a six-year, $90 million contract, the first-year cap hit could be around $7 million depending on bonuses.

Every team has to be cap compliant when the new league year starts on March 10. If Houston gets the tag, cutting Avery and Jenkins, along with potential releases of Chase Daniel and Mike DeVito, only gets him in the fold with no other available money barring further moves. If Hudson hits the market, he's gone. The Chiefs need to sign Hudson before March 10, a feat made much easier with Houston being locked up.

This is a critical offseason for Kansas City, which can be a Super Bowl contender with the correct decisions. Dorsey must get off to a good start.