December 23, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Vick Ballard (33) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) attempts to defend in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Colts won 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Is Hali’s Importance to the Chiefs Declining?

The contractual elephant in the room entering this spring for the Chiefs was that of Tyson Jackson. The former number three overall selection in a very underwhelming 2009 draft class was scheduled to make $14.72 million this season; but with pressure from the Chiefs front office and the apparent concession by his agent that he wouldn’t make more than what the Chiefs were offering him on the open market, Jackson restructured his contract to $4.2 million to avoid being cut.

As a Chiefs fan, you know Jackson has come around as one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in run stopping, but has failed to produce a consistent pressure in the backfield. For him to take the pay cut makes sense, and although humbling, he was realistic. This now leads me to my next, and main, point: the contract of Tamba Hali.

Once Jackson’s contract was resolved, Hali’s contract was then the biggest on the team, and Hali will make over $12 million this season. That was after signing a five year, $57.5 million deal before the 2011 season after being franchise tagged. When Hali was tagged, he was one of the premiere pass rushers in the league, and was coming off a 2010 season in which the Chiefs made the playoffs and he had 14.5 sacks. In 2011, Hali followed it up with 12 sacks, but last season, his sack total dropped to 9; still a respectable number, but single digit sacks aren’t what you want from the highest paid player on your team.

And Hali is no longer the best outside linebacker on the team. That honor belongs to Justin Houston. Houston is entering his third year with the Chiefs, and is coming off a 10 sack season. But Houston is more than a one-dimensional pass rusher, a term often associated with Hali (and rightly so), and placed third in run stops (28) last season while finishing fourth overall among “3-4″ outside linebackers in Pro Football Focus’ metrics. Additionally, Houston has 13 sacks and 57 quarterback pressures over his last 20 games.

It can’t be determined how many sacks Houston has because extra attention is being paid to Hali, or how many sacks Hali is robbed of because of either called or uncalled holding penalties, but as far as complete 3-4 outside linebackers are concerned, Houston is definitely more of one than Hali. Ever see Hali drop back into coverage well? That’s what I thought. And while Hali’s contract does get cheaper over the two remaining seasons after 2013, it still comes to about $9 million per season. If Hali’s numbers continue to dip, and Houston continues to develop into one of the best linebackers in the game – his ascent is already being recognized by a Pro Bowl invite and being ranked the 49th best player in the NFL last season by NFL Network – then the Chiefs might find it the right move to make Houston their premiere pass rusher while moving on from an expensive Hali.

Unless, of course, Hali was willing to restructure his contract like Tyson Jackson. But it’s one thing for a guy that’s never lived up to his draft status to restructure, and another thing for a guy that’s been on top of the league to restructure. It’s a good thing, however, that Hali does recognize just how talented Houston is. “I love getting sacks, and we’re going to compete on that note,” Hali recently said of Houston. “As an athlete, I can’t compete with the kid. He’s that much better.”

For now, let’s enjoy two players near their prime: Houston on the way up, Hali on the way down.

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Tags: Kansas City Chiefs

  • Patrick Allen

    Tamba isn’t producing as many hurries as he was a couple of years ago but he is still a top pass rusher in the NFL. The Chiefs were so bad last season that teams hardly ever were forced into unfavorable passing situations that would benefit Tamba’s sack numbers.

    I think he has a major resurgence this year. The emergence of Houston means will have to pick their poison if they want to double team one of them. If the KC offense ever plays with a lead, I think we will see Houston and Hali racking up the sacks, especially if Sutton’s defense really is more aggressive.

    • KCPauly

      Come on Patrick were is your optimism “if” KC’s offense plays with a lead, needs to read While KC’s offense plays with a lead, I’m sure it was just a typo :~)) Go Chiefs!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Jason Seibel

        Patrick can be optomistic, but that statement drips of being “realistic.” We love the Chiefs and we all think they’re much better than last year. But come on…they were 2-14.

        • KCPauly

          Ah, Jason, I was just ribbing him a little, I love Pats writing, and look forward to them daily, just funnin’ a bit, 2-14 you say? huh, I couldn’t bear to watch that long :~)) Go Chiefs!!!!

    • Darkwolf1414

      My sentiments exactly! It’s hard to get sacks or hurries when the opposing team is so far ahead that they can just grind out the clock on the ground. Houston only had one more sack than Tamba did last year. Both of them suffered from the offense’s ineptitude. Also, as Tyler and Bosco mentioned, Tamba gets held more, with more no calls, than any other pass rusher. How can a ref not see the LT’s arm wrapped around Tamba’s neck? It’s a load of BS!

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Hali isn’t a nuisance because he’s a superior athlete. He’s a problem because he’s wily, is a great hand fighter, and has a non-stop motor. He’s still very important to this defense!

  • Jason Seibel

    I can see your point in regards to Hali’s massive contract, however with the rise of Justin Houston, Tamba Hali is more important than ever. Without Hali, opposing offenses would be able to pay more attention to Houston and cause his numbers to drop. As it stands now, OCs have to worry about the left jab as much as the right hook. They don’t know which direction the knockout blow will be coming from.
    Do I think Hali’s contract is a bit inflated? Absolutely. However, that was the result of a great season and trying to get him out of the franchise tag. There were rumors earlier this offseason that Hali refused to renegotiate, and I don’t think he should. As you said, he wasn’t somebody who got a huge rookie contract that wasn’t equal to his skill. He’s proved it on the field, maybe twice as much as anyone else, because he’s done it in a position he wasn’t drafted to play. Remember, he was drafted as a 4-3 DE on the other side of Jared Allen.
    Regardless, I think the dynamic duo of Houston and Hali will have a great year this season under Sutton’s D. Let’s hope, anyways!

    • Darkwolf1414


  • Tyler Alexander

    Tamba gets held more than any other player in the NFL. Its not his fault the refs don’t call it…

    • Bosco Cletus

      I’m glad someone else thinks this about Tamba’s game, I am usually the guy in the room standing and screaming HOLD!!!

      • Darkwolf1414

        Yup, me too.

  • Jim Harper

    Tamba should not be punished for a slight drop in sacks that are primarily due to Houston being on the other side. Speaking of which, when does Houston’s contract come due? He will likely command big money too.

    • ArrowFan

      I think he signed a four year deal.

  • ArrowFan

    Tamba will have a resurgent year. Tamba and Huston will both have double digit sack totals this year. Mainly because Houston will now take attention away from Tamba and they will both enjoy the benefit of a stronger secondary.

  • ArrowFan

    I recall to many games over the last couple of years where it seemed to me everyone on our D had given up, except for one bleeding crazy looking OLB.

  • chiefdeorty

    It would be nice if he would do a cap friendly deal only so the team could free up some more cash to go after some of the players that could get cut when teams have to get down to 53. However that is up to him and he has earned a good contract but it would be nice to have the money if there was that really good player that was let go for the same reason that we could not sign him, the cap. I do think they both will have great seasons because we will be playing with the lead this year more than from behind you can bet on it!

  • tm1946

    As the overall roster improves, past standouts will slip into the pack. In Hali’s case, I believe he will rise to a more productive level than before.
    It is the nature of football, young lions push the older ones but the team gets better every year.

  • Lyle Graversen

    I’m really curious to see what Hali does. I think he has 2-3 years of good play left in him but at his age he probably isn’t getting better. My one concern is that on twitter he tweets as much or more about his music acts he works with and records than he does about football. Tamba always seemed to be the guy that beat everyone because he outworked them. I just hope this music hobby of his doesn’t cause him to lose his edge. There’s no reason to think it has yet, just something I’ve noticed over the past year.

  • Patriot42

    Chiefs opposing QB’s were not pressured because the were always ahead.

  • cyberry

    Last year there was no need for opposing teams to throw or extend plays in the 2nd half.. When a team has a 2 or more touchdown led in the 3rd or 4th quarter..they are not going to put themselves in a position to make mistakes (like a quarterback holding on to the ball more than 3 seconds)..especially with quarterbacks that NO ONE fears to be able to make plays for a comeback..

    When the Chiefs become more competitive and teams are forced to make plays throughout the game… Tamba sack’s will rise again..

  • Eddie Gleason

    IMHO, this author is simply trying to put Hali into a restructure your contract or else situation. Tamba has played incredibly considering the many uncalled holds against him.Personally I feel Tama Hali will restructure his contract if the Chiefs increase wins by 7 or 8 games this season,b/c he’ll be able to see a possible SuperBowl run in 2014

  • Billie Cabral

    Good read. I couldn’t agree more. Tamba is held a ton! But as you stated opposing teams rarely were in long passing situations and if so our secondary stuggled to cover. I cant wait to see what happens with the best OLB tandem in the league coupled with a way better secondary. Is this our year!

  • Jason Taylor

    I think, as Chiefs fans, we owe Tamba Hali a big more loyalty than…

    Time to move on…

    Horrible post. Poor form man. Real poor.

    Looking forward without remembering why we had a few moments to remember with fondness the last few years… DJ… Tamba…. Jamal…. Is exactly what I would expect from fair weather and band wagon fans.


    • Billie Cabral

      I don’t think it’s time to move on, but I do think it’s time for Tamba to get back to his true form and I think from what I’ve read on this “Attacking D” he may flourish again. All I’m saying is he is getting paid A LOT and he needs to play every down, every snap with intensity and not take ANY plays off like he has had a tendency to do in the past or else it WILL be time to move on and pay Justin Houston what he deserves!

  • GDL40

    Tamba Hali’s non-stop motor is prbly part of the reason a 2-14 team had 6 pro-bowlers. Other players get motivated and when you’re really motivated and work as hard as Hali doez, good things happen……EXCITED FOR THIS SEASON !

  • antony555

    Tamba is really still important to Houston’s development as said he is double teamed and that leaves one man for Houston to beat to get to the QB, I am curious to see how the 3 4 defense has changed how much this is going to help our edge rushers as the opposing teams offense will not know where the pressure is coming from…

  • Toni Mitchell

    Maybe Tamba’s numbers have gone down because they put some huge monster guy on him all the time. The opposing teams know what he is capable of and they are going to do everything to stop him which gives Houston more room to move…….watch them start doing in to Houston now…..