The deadline for agreeing to a long-term deal with star outside linebacker Justin Houston is fast approaching, but it appears both sides will come together for another discussion.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, talks between the two sides — which have recently been quiet — are expected to renew on Tuesday, one day before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. league deadline.
Pro Football Talk reported the news first.
The Chiefs have until Wednesday to work out a long-term contract with Houston, who has been offered a one-year, $13.1 million nonexclusive franchise tender by the Chiefs.
Otherwise, he will have to play the 2015 season under the franchise tag to earn an accrued year toward free-agency.
Houston, however, is under no obligation to sign the franchise tender immediately. In the absence of a long-term deal, Houston could theoretically hold off on signing the tender, skip training camp and the preseason and return shortly before the regular season and still command his full franchise salary.
And if Houston — who recently skipped the entirety of organized team activities, not to mention the Chiefs’ three-day mandatory minicamp in mid-June — really wanted to show his displeasure, he could also hold out for the first part of the season, return before week 10 and still earn an accrued season toward free-agency.
But in that case, Houston — who had a cap number of $1.4 million last season — would receive only a prorated portion of his $13.1 million salary.
In the absence of a long-term deal, the Chiefs also have the option of franchising Houston, 26, in 2016 for 120 percent of his 2015 salary.
The Chiefs’ higher-ups have consistently been optimistic regarding Houston’s future in Kansas City. At his most recent news conference in mid-June, Chiefs coach Andy Reid was asked when he anticipates Houston will return to the team.
“When they get it done,” Reid said. “I don’t get caught up in all that, never have. I’ll let the business side of it take care of itself and move on. And then if a man misses (time), it’s another man’s reps, so that’s how we go.
“There’s a lot of rules and regulations, but I don’t get caught up in that — that’s what Dorse (general manager John Dorsey) does. I have trust in both sides, actually, that they’ll get something done.”
Reid says he is confident Houston, who also skipped OTAs last year and responded with a career season in which he racked up 68 tackles and 22 sacks — a half-sack short of Michael Strahan’s single-season league record — is staying in good shape.
Houston has posted videos of his workouts on Instagram while he’s been away.
“Do I think he’s working out? Absolutely. That’s him by nature,” Reid said. “He’s not going to let (conditioning) things slide on his side.”
“I’ve been very consistent in saying that we not only value Justin as a football player, that we not only value Justin as a person and leader, and we want him to be a Chief for life,” Hunt told The Star in March.
“He knows, and his agent knows, how much we want him back,” Hunt said. “We just all have to be patient, and eventually, we’re going to get him signed to a long-term deal.”
Dorsey added in April:
“We’ve said all along that Justin is a great football player, he really is,” Dorsey said. “I foresee him not going anywhere in the future.”
Locking Houston up long term is actually one of many ways the Chiefs can gain some much-needed cap relief in 2015.
As it stands, the Chiefs have just $538,565 in cap room — the lowest figure in the league, per the NFL Players Association, and, according to salary-cap expert and former NFL agent Joel Corry, probably not enough to be comfortable with heading into the season.
During the offseason, only the top 51 contracts on the 90-man roster — plus dead money earmarked for players already released — count toward the Chiefs’ salary-cap number.
But once the regular season begins, every player on the Chiefs’ 53-man roster — plus players on injured reserve and the practice squad — count against the cap.
“You can probably get by with $2.5 million (in space), just because you want to account for injuries,” Corry said.
Corry said the Chiefs could save something like $6.5 million by giving Houston a megadeal comparable to Dolphins tackle Ndamukong Suh’s massive six-year, $114 million pact, though he does not anticipate Houston getting that. Suh got that on the open market, whereas Houston is negotiating with his original team.
However, Corry said that signing Houston to a deal like the six-year, $100 million contract given in September to Texans star pass rusher J.J. Watt — who beat out Houston for NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 — would still provide the Chiefs significant cap relief this year.
And with the Chiefs expected to have an early estimate of $46 million in cap room for the 2016 season, Corry says they are well-equipped to handle a big deal for Houston.
In the meantime, Houston’s $13.1 million tender — which is the second-highest 2015 cap figure on the team, behind quarterback Alex Smith — will remain on the books regardless of how long he waits to sign it should the two sides fail to agree to a new deal by Wednesday’s deadline.