Dec 14, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
There is nothing more controversial to a fanbase than an unresolved contract situation involving a top star. So naturally, that’s the position the Chiefs find themselves in. I partly blame myself for this. I had been begging the Kansas City Chiefs to do something to bring an end to the quarterback debate that has plagued this team ever since Trent Green hung up his cleats. Kudos to the K.C. brass for thinking outside the box on that…but now we have an even worse debate.
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There are people who actually think the Chiefs are better off without Justin Houston! Yes, gasp you should! Amazingly, there are fans that would rather see our superstar linebacker traded or allowed to walk after this season, than to pay the man what he’s worth and try to capitalize on the recent success that we’ve had. They’ve got their reasons, but quite frankly, those reasons don’t stand up at all.
Players like Justin Houston don’t come around very often. When you get a chance to hold onto someone like this, you had better do it. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Reason #1: The Chiefs cannot afford to sign Justin Houston right now.
Ok, I get it, you hear that the Chiefs only have somewhere between $200,000 and $900,000 left to spend (depending on your source). So how could the Chiefs possibly afford to add Houston’s contract this year? Well, that’s one of the many benefits of the Franchise Tag when a team is putting a player under a new contract. Houston already accounts for $13 million of the salary cap, but that number changes depending on the contract that is signed, and it will most likely go down! For an excellent example, let’s look at the Ndamukong Suh contract with Miami.
As you can see from following the link, Suh’s first year cap hit is $6.1 million. So if we use that contract as our basis of comparison (as most salary cap analysts currently do), we can see that the Chiefs have the flexibility to lower Houston’s 2015 cap hit by almost $7 million. That’s a pretty significant number. And the Chiefs will have options with that money. They can use it on more free agents like Evan Mathis or James Jones, or they can save the money and allow it to rollover to 2016. Or they can keep Houston’s cap hit at $13 million and pay him less in another future season. There is literally no bad option in that.
Reason #2: Ok, we can technically afford it, but Houston’s contract will cripple the franchise financially in the future!
I understand the reasoning for this. On its surface, a huge contract on a limited budget would seem to naturally present this kind of burden. And especially after the tight salary cap situation the Chiefs faced this offseason, it makes sense that this would be on the minds of fans.
“Like I’ve said all along, I envision Justin being a Chief.” ~ John Dorsey on Justin Houston’s future with the Chiefs
However, it isn’t true. The Chiefs are currently projected by Over the Cap to have $48 million available against the salary cap next year. That is the sixth most cap space in the entire NFL! Want some more good news? That number is with 46 of the 53 roster spots currently accounted for, meaning only seven more contracts will hit our cap, including that of Justin Houston.
If we stick to the Suh comparison, Houston would have a $28 million cap hit in 2016, dropping the Chiefs cap number to $20 million. HOWEVER, if we’re using the Suh comparison, then that means we had an additional $7 million to rollover because of the money saved by signing Houston! So the Chiefs would be sitting at $27 million, right in the middle of the pack and with only six more contracts to add. I gotta tell you, it’s starting to look like our general manager may have known that Justin Houston’s contract was going to expire!
Beyond 2016, the Chiefs cap situation only gets better, and creates much more flexibility for maneuvering Houston’s contract to prevent it from crippling our financial situation.
Next: It's all about the benjamins...