Multiple sources told The Star that outside linebacker Justin Houston reported to training camp Wednesday at Missouri Western State University.
Houston, who skipped the Chiefs’ organized team activities in June, is seeking a raise on the $1.4 million he is scheduled to earn this season.
By reporting on time, Houston, 25, is expected to play out the final year of a four-year rookie deal, which theoretically gives him a chance at free agency.
This reality could motivate the Chiefs to seek an extension with Houston, their best defensive player who has yet to enter his prime. The Chiefs could always place a franchise on him after the season, but they also have another key 2015 free agent in quarterback Alex Smith and can only tag one.
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The Chiefs and Smith have been in negotiations for a deal, but a source said there have been “significant differences” between the two sides as it relates to an extension.
Therefore, the quickest route to assuring the presence of both players in 2015 might be extending Houston, which would allow the Chiefs to tag Smith next offseason, if necessary.
With an extension, Houston could earn somewhere in north of the five-year, $56 million deal fellow outside linebacker Tamba Hali received from the Chiefs a few years ago.
Salary cap analyst and former agent Joel Corry said the Chiefs, who had $9.4 million in cap space before Jamaal Charles’ extension on Wednesday, can still fit extensions with Smith and Houston under the cap.
“You can get all three deals done,” Corry said. “You can do Houston with Tamba parameters, so even if you gave him $17.5 million as signing bonus, it’s doable. It’s just a question of whether you want to pay what he wants.”
Hali received $16 million guaranteed. And without hesitation, Corry said something in that neighborhood is certainly more palatable to the Chiefs than whatever the price tag would be if Houston risks injury and ends up having another 11-sack season.
“If he hits the open market, if he has a similar year to this year, we’re talking about $15 million per year guy, $50 million guaranteed,” Corry said. “I’m just looking at the guy who tore his pec (pectoral muscle) in Houston, and Buffalo ended up paying him a boatload of money.”
Corry, of course, is referencing defensive end Mario Williams, who was 27 when he signed his six-year, $100 million deal with the Bills after a season in which he played only five games because of injury.