Vahe Gregorian

Timing was right for Justin Houston’s new contract with Chiefs

Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) celebrated the half-sack of teammate Dee Ford (55) in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders on December 14, 2014, at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 31-13.
Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) celebrated the half-sack of teammate Dee Ford (55) in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders on December 14, 2014, at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 31-13. The Kansas City Star

Procrastination is one thing, a wise friend once said, and taking all the time you have is another.

That might sound like just a subtle difference, or maybe just an excuse to dawdle along before frantically responding to deadlines — which naturally makes it a fine thing for a newspaper man to believe.

But the distinction actually is substantial, not to mention increasingly hard to embrace in a culture frittering away its filter in favor of impulse and mistaking reactions for conviction.

Rash action and having “a hot take” are the coin of the realm now, not methodical deliberation and rational consideration.

All of which takes us to the matter of the Chiefs momentous signing on Wednesday of linebacker Justin Houston to a six-year, $101 million deal that makes him the highest-paid player in team history.

In the process of enhancing their prospects for the immediate future and further bolstering the goodwill and credibility of a newish regime suddenly preparing for its third season, the Chiefs made good on making Houston whole after the four-year bargain they enjoyed.

No doubt they could have spent millions less to extend Houston a year ago, before he led the NFL and broke Derrick Thomas’ franchise record with 22 sacks.

But they wouldn’t have been spending with the same conviction that Houston, 26, is a cornerstone of the team, either.

So the Chiefs and Houston engaged the laborious process.

Each side submitted to the surges and lulls and frustrations and, surely, occasional rancor and entire breakdowns in communications along the way to the agreement apparently finalized Tuesday, the night before the deadline to extend designated franchise players to long-term contracts.

They took all the time they had, and each used it well.

Amid all the minutia and semantics and dickering and perhaps bickering, though, a thread of inevitability always seemed to guide and prevail.

The Chiefs knew they had to get this done, maybe as much for the message it would send if they did as the one it would send if they didn’t.

And ultimately they honored what they conveyed to Houston months ago, a stance that will resonate not just with Houston but his teammates as they come to learn more about what the John Dorsey-Andy Reid tandem stands for.

For whatever disillusionment Houston might have felt along the way during a process that included him missing mandatory offseason team practices, he said on Wednesday that it was “very important” to him to stay in Kansas City and that he considers Reid a great coach who motivates and pushes him.

Perhaps most importantly, he also said that he essentially had sensed this would all work out.

“At the end of the season, they told me, ‘Just be patient, we’ll get a deal done,’” said Houston, who believed it would “take care of itself” and “sat back and waited on them.”

He also believed, of course, in the skills and wiles of his representation, Joel Segal, to whom Houston said he left any and all criteria when asked if it had been important to him to get more money than the Texans’ J.J. Watt (six-year, $100 million).

“I left that up to my agent,” he said, later adding: “I trust my agent; I believe in what he does and I just let him handle his job.”

Now, like Houston, Chiefs fans can believe all the more in how Dorsey and Reid, not to mention Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, are handling their jobs — how they are cultivating the present and the future of a franchise that was in shambles and engulfed in chaos less than three years ago.

Asked what took so long, Dorsey joked that he had “bad cell-phone service up here at my cottage in Wisconsin,” where he gets away every summer.

“I have to go on top of the hill at the hardware store some days to talk,” he said. “So maybe that was it.”

More seriously, he said the process had taken seven to 10 months, that the result was a “fair deal for everybody ” even if “these types of deals take a long time. Not everybody is going to get what they want.”

“I think you just have to be consistent day-in and day-out and kind of peck away and make sure that kind of communication is always ongoing,” he added. “All along through the process, I’ve told you guys that we have been in constant communication, and we had.”

Enough so that Dorsey even thanked Segal, saying “he can’t applaud” him enough.

So the result is the thing here, enabled by a process that like laws and sausages you don’t want to see being made (and didn’t because it was all unfolding discreetly behind the scenes) but had to be allowed to breathe and play out to come to fruition.

At long last, Houston will get the gratification that’s been delayed for years, starting with the fact he tumbled to the third round of the 2011 draft and 70th overall for reportedly testing positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine, and continuing through last season, when he made a relatively paltry $1.4 million.

Now he’s got a guaranteed $52.5 million, and the Chiefs have more momentum to recast their foundation.

“This is going to be a big year,” Houston said.

All because patience, it turns out, still is a virtue.

To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to vgregorian@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @vgregorian. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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