Justin Houston: Gone in 691,200 seconds?

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In case you were wondering, 691,200 seconds is eight days. In my humble estimation, I believe that’s how long general manager John Dorsey has to secure outside linebacker Justin Houston as part of the organization’s future. The Kansas City Chiefs have until July 15 to sign the NFL’s 2014 sack leader to a long-term deal. That date serves as the league’s deadline for signing franchise players to new contracts. If the two sides are still unable to arrive at agreeable terms by then, Houston will play the 2015 season under the tag and negotiations will be tabled until the offseason.

Let me be clear: The Chiefs’ hands are not tied here. They have a few options no matter how this all plays out. If they cannot get Houston signed by the deadline, they retain his rights until the new league year begins in the spring of 2016. At that time, they’ll have the option of re-opening contract talks with Houston, tagging him again (which would trigger a 120 percent increase from the previous year’s salary), or allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. I’d argue that placing the franchise tag on Houston again in 2016 is the least practical of those three options.

When you look at this from a player’s perspective, it becomes painfully clear why they’d rather not spend the entire season on the tag. The franchise tag is a one-year deal that comes with no real security. What happens if Houston gets injured midway through the year? He won’t have a financial safety net beyond the 2015 season. Professional football is his only livelihood and he’s one injury away from losing or severely crippling his ability to provide for his family. Two of the last four high-profile Chiefs players to receive the franchise tag played for a different franchise the following season. I’m persuaded that being tagged rather than signed put them on the fast track out of Kansas City. Branden Albert and Jared Allen made their dissatisfaction with the organization clear in the media.

Might a franchise designation feel a bit like a smack in the face if you were in their place? Wouldn’t you want to be rewarded for years of quality performance on the field? Sure, players want to be paid commensurate with their talent and productivity, but there’s more to a long-term deal than the number of zeroes on the check. New contracts also represent commitment and a show of appreciation by the organization.

Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

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