Don’t expect to see star outside linebacker Justin Houston on the Chiefs’ practice field soon.
A source told The Star that Houston, who is likely seeking a new contract, is unlikely to attend the Chiefs’ three-day mandatory minicamp, which started Tuesday at the team’s practice facility.
Houston missed Tuesday’s practice after missing all of the Chiefs’ offseason training program, which started in late April. He also missed all 10 practices of organized team activities, which are voluntary.
Houston’s absence is believed to be tied to his contract. He is slated to earn only $1.4 million this season, which will make him the second-lowest-paid projected starter on the defense.
At 25, Houston is entering his fourth year — the last of his rookie deal — after getting 11 sacks in 11 games in 2013. His Pro Football Focus grade of 32.5 was the highest on the defense and tops among the league’s 3-4 outside linebackers.
Other fourth- or fifth-year players around Houston’s age already agreed to lucrative extensions this offseason, including Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, 26, and Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey, 24.
Sherman’s four-year, $57 million extension was expected, considering the Seahawks’ Super Bowl title. But the Steelers took care of Pouncey with a five-year, $44 million extension despite the fact he missed 15 games last season because of a knee injury.
It would make sense if Houston, who went from a likely first-round pick to a third-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft draft because of a failed drug test at the combine is seeking similar financial security.
The Chiefs should, in theory, have enough room to get something done with Houston after releasing veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers last Friday. By releasing Flowers, who was set to own a $10.5 million cap number this season, the Chiefs created a little over $7 million in cap room and now have about $9.7 million in cap space, according to NFL Players Association records.
Fellow outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who turns 31 this season and also had 11 sacks last year, has two years remaining on a five-year, $56 million contract he signed in 2011. The Chiefs invested a first-round pick in another outside linebacker, Auburn’s Dee Ford, in this year’s draft.
Veteran Frank Zombo has received the majority of the reps with the first team at Houston’s position during OTAs, though Ford has worked in some.
By missing the entirety of the three-day camp this week, the Chiefs could fine Houston approximately $70,000 per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.
It remains to be seen if Houston will extend his holdout into training camp, which starts in late July, though his absence from mandatory minicamp indicates he might be willing to do so. Houston would be subject to fines of $30,000 per day for missing training camp.
The Chiefs made no comment on Houston’s absence. Coach Andy Reid will address the media after Thursday’s practice.