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Chiefs’ Justin Houston tops USA Today’s list of stars who may be cut this offseason

Outside linebacker Justin Houston might need more help on defense this season than the Chiefs as currently constructed are able to give him
Outside linebacker Justin Houston might need more help on defense this season than the Chiefs as currently constructed are able to give him file photo

When the Chiefs trade Alex Smith to Washington for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick in this year’s draft, they will save $15.6 million in salary-cap space.

The deal won’t be done until the first day of the new league year, which begins at 3 p.m. on March 14.

Will the Chiefs look at other cost-cutting measures, such as releasing players? USA Today’s Steven Ruiz thinks it’s possible. He ranked the top 25 NFL stars who could be cut during the offseason, and two Chiefs are on the list.

At No. 1 is a Chiefs player, but it may surprise you. It’s linebacker Justin Houston, whose cap hit for next season would be $20.6 million, according to Sportrac, which said his base salary will be $14.75 million.

Ruiz wrote: “With the Chiefs looking to get younger on defense, Houston will have a hard time sticking around. He can still be a Pro Bowl level player if he can stay healthy.”

Houston, who turned 29 last month, had 9 1/2 sacks and 59 tackles in 15 games last season.

Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson is No. 14 on the list. Sportrac says Johnson has a base salary of $8 million for 2018 with a cap hit of $10.25 million.

“Johnson will be another victim of the youth moment in Kansas City,” Ruiz wrote. “Johnson is older and his role was reduced late in the 2017 season, but he remains a potentially valuable three-down linebacker.”

Johnson had 71 tackles in 15 games, forced a fumbled and defended seven passes this past season

You can see the whole list here.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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