A person with knowledge of the situation told The Star on Friday that the Chiefs and outside linebacker Justin Houston “are far apart” on a contract extension.
Houston, 25, will make $1.4 million this season on the final year of his four-year rookie contract. He skipped the entirety of the Chiefs’ offseason training activities, though he reported for training camp on time.
At that time, there seemed to be a general sense of optimism regarding the chances of getting a deal done.
“There’s a premium on rushing the passer,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said during training camp. “I think everybody understands he’s a really good young football player.”
But there now appear to be doubts, though there’s still plenty of time between now and the next offseason to get a new contract done.
Tamba Hali’s five-year, $55 million extension should be considered a starting point in the negotiations, but it probably wouldn’t hurt if one of the other elite young pass rushers who are also seeking new deals —including Houston’s J.J. Watt and St. Louis’ Robert Quinn — set the market first.
For instance, when Seattle’s Richard Sherman agreed to a four-year, $57 million extension this offseason, it set the cornerback market at $14 million per season. Considering pass rushers are more valuable than cornerbacks, the Watt- and Quinn-led group of pass rushers could be pushing for something upwards of $16 to 18 million per year.
At that point, it would be up to the Chiefs to decide if Houston, who has recorded 26 1/2 sacks the last three seasons, is worthy of that kind of deal. If not, they could decide to franchise tag him for healthy but not exorbitant sums the next two years — the franchise tag for linebackers this offseason was only $11.4 million.
Teams, however, are only allowed to tag one player per offseason, and after surrendering two valuable second-round picks for quarterback Alex Smith, the Chiefs might have an interesting decision to make they can’t agree to a deal with either player before free agency begins next March.
But it’s worth noting that the franchise tag for quarterbacks this offseason was a good $5 million higher than it was for linebackers, so it’s at least conceivable the Chiefs could opt to lock Houston in for 2015 at the lower rate and take their chances with Smith hitting the market.