After months of speculation, there’s finally a tangible first step toward Justin Houston’s long-term contract future. As expected, the Chiefs franchise-tagged Houston on Monday, and a league source told The Star it was a nonexclusive tag, which allows the Chiefs’ star outside linebacker to receive offers from other teams.
Houston is not expected to immediately sign the one-year franchise tender, a source familiar with the situation informed ChiefsDigest.com. The franchise tag for the linebacker position is worth $13.19 million. Still, a player not promptly putting his signature on a franchise tender is not unheard of. The Chiefs placed the franchise tag on wide receiver Dwayne Bowe in 2012, but Bowe didn’t sign the tender until after training camp.
A year ago, the Chiefs could have saved themselves a lot of time, trouble and money by signing Houston to a contract based on Tamba Hali’s five-year, $35 million guaranteed deal, which was signed before the 2011 season. Do that back then, and the Chiefs today have more cap space, longer control over a premier pass rusher and more flexibility and focus to fill some obvious needs in hopes of ending a 21-year drought of playoff wins.
"Justin is a talented player and a key contributor to our defense," Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said. "Today was the deadline to designate a franchise player, and it was in the best interest of the club to place the tag on Justin. We will continue to discuss long-term options with him and his agent. Our goal is to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial. We want to keep Justin in a Chiefs uniform for years to come."
1. If you were in Dorsey's shoes, would you rather have Justin Houston locked up, pain-free, in the long term for the Kansas City Chiefs, or quarterback Alex Smith?
2. Which player is likely to go out and break the bank, right now, on the open market: Smith, a 30-year-old quarterback only a few seasons away from the winter of his pro career, or Houston, a pass-rushing monster who just turned 26?
The Chiefs and Houston have until July 15 to agree on a long-term contract. If they don't have a deal in place by then, they can't agree on one until after the 2015 regular season.
Using the franchise tag on Houston also gives the Chiefs a longer window during which to negotiate a long-term deal. Houston would presumably be looking for a guarantee of at least $28.776 million, the total of what he'd receive if he were franchise tagged for two seasons in a row. That would be comparable to the deal received by J.J. Watt, who got a $100 million contract with $30.876 million guaranteed last offseason.
In that sense, the Chiefs placing the franchise tag on Houston and Houston possibly deciding not to sign it is a part of the business. These things tend to sort themselves out ... But these things don’t always sort themselves out. In this case, the lack of progress toward a long-term contract and Houston’s willingness to hold out of last spring’s activities make you wonder whether this one will.
Cutting Walker would save just $1.75 million, which actually becomes just $1.25 million when a replacement contract takes his place. Releasing Walker only seems to make financial sense if the team must make a small move to get under the cap.
An exclusive, one-on-one interview with former Chiefs guard Will Shields, who has been named to the NFL's 2015 Hall of Fame class.