Are Justin Houston’s days as a member of the Chiefs numbered? There has been an increase in rumors that this could be the case over the last few weeks. The biggest reason the Chiefs would be willing to part ways with the 30 year old pass rusher is largely due to his contract. Justin Houston would be entering year five of a six year/$101 million in 2019. The fact that he would have the largest 2019 salary cap number on the team has made this more possible that the Chiefs could move him.
Houston, We Have A Problem
According to Spotrac, Houston would have a cap hit of $21.1 million in 2019 and $19 million in 2020. If the Chiefs were to keep him, Houston would likely to have agree to restructure his deal to take a paycut. If not, the Chiefs could release Houston and save $14 million in cap space. That would be a huge number to be used elsewhere in building the roster for the future. With only having roughly $25.5 million in cap space right now, a release would be a win for the Chiefs. But, that would mean you would have to find a way to replace that production.
There is an injury history with Houston, as he has not played a full sixteen games since 2014. That was the season, in which, Houston notched 22 sacks in a year where the Chiefs missed the postseason. In the four seasons since, Houston has 30 sacks. Considering that is in a forty-three game span, those are impressive numbers. But when he’s not able to get to the quarterback, Houston’s numbers drop off in run defense.
Over the last couple of weeks, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has been noticeably different when comparing Dee Ford to Houston. If the Chiefs are going to pay one of these pass rushers in 2019, then the other is likely to be gone. It’s been evident that Kansas City believes it’s too unlikely they both can coexist on the same defense in 2019 due to the finances.
At the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, here’s what Veach had to say about Houston: “I would say he’s under contract for this year and next year. Our plan is to play with him. We look forward to having him on our roster, but there’s a lot of dialogue and everything’s fluid for the next few weeks until we get to the start of the new league year and we’ll handle that as we get information- what’s real and what’s not real. It’s a good problem to have because he’s a great player.”
Here’s what NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport had to say about the Houston rumors at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 28, 2019
As we have mentioned before, it seems like Dee Ford getting franchise tagged by the Chiefs is very likely. Veach has even said that everyone “seems to be on the same page” with Ford and his agent. The Chiefs would have until 3 pm CT on Tuesday, March 5 to make that decision. In a perfect world, the Chiefs would likely want to keep both players. But, they do not have the flexible salary cap space like the Colts, Jets, Browns, Bills and others have. As earlier reports have suggested, it would be difficult to afford both Houston and Ford in 2019.
Tag, You’re It
It seems that Veach is more comfortable in taking the route of tagging Ford and trying to trade Houston or just flat out cut him. The youth of Ford and eventual extensions for even more youthful players like Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones are in order soon as well. Not to mention, there is a certain franchise quarterback in Patrick Mahomes that will eventually break the bank likely in the future too. You have to cut your losses and move on from Houston. And like Rapoport said, the fact that some of the top pass rushers from this year’s free agent class could be franchise tagged, besides Ford, certain teams may be willing to take a chance on Houston’s contract for a one or two year stint.
Thank you for reading. Be sure to check out Full Press Coverage for news on the 2019 NFL Free Agency period.