The Chiefs are re-signing defensive tackle Jaye Howard to a two-year, $12 million deal, a source told The Star on Wednesday.
Rand Getlin of NFL Network reported the news first.
The return of Howard is huge for the Chiefs’ defense, which ranked seventh in the league and will now return all three of its starters along the interior defensive line.
The deal allows Howard to hit free agency again at 29, when he’s still in his prime, and potentially sets up another payday.
Howard was a fourth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, and was claimed off waivers by the Chiefs before the next season. He matured both off the field — as he got married and had twin sons — and on the field, where he bulked up to 320 pounds while maintaining his quickness.
In 2015, he was arguably the Chiefs’ best interior lineman, as he recorded 57 tackles and a career-best 5 1/2 sacks while emerging as a consistent, disruptive presence along the line.
Howard’s return, in addition to the franchise tag that was recently applied to safety Eric Berry and the recently re-signings of inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and outside linebacker Tamba Hali, means the Chiefs have locked up four of their five defensive starters that were set to hit the market, with cornerback Sean Smith the lone holdout.
And even that situation remains fluid; a source told The Star on Wednesday evening that the Chiefs are making a strong push to retain Smith, who formed one of the league’s top cornerback duos with rookie Marcus Peters in 2015.