Justin Houston: Gone in 691,200 seconds?

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Houston is scheduled to make $13.1 million in 2015. Were he tagged again in 2016, he’d occupy $15.7 million of the Chiefs’ cap. That two-year total of $28.82 million would be fully guaranteed. Renting Houston for two seasons would tie up a substantial amount of cap space and they’d still ultimately lose him to another team (without compensation). Tagging him this offseason made sense because it afforded them a window of opportunity to work on a new deal. If they can’t do that by the deadline, they should be prepared to walk away from Houston after the 2015 season.

Ex-agent and CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry wrote a column in late June projecting a fair contract for Houston. He suggested a five-year, $81.25 million deal ($48 million guaranteed). Those numbers would put him in fairly elite company among the league’s highest-paid defenders. Corry’s breakdown of the deal has a combined cap hit of $24 million over the first two years. Compare that with the near-$29 million cost of two consecutive franchise designations. That’s a relatively negligible differential (of less than $5 million), but which option gives you long-term rights to Houston?

Some will argue that keeping him around with a subsequent tag greatly improves the Chiefs’ chances of fielding a championship-caliber squad at a critical time for the accomplished but aging core of talent they’ve culled together in Kansas City. If I’m being honest, that’s tough to argue. Elite pass rushers are tough to come by. Although, $15 million goes a long way toward locking up other ascending players with contracts soon to expire (namely Dontari Poe, Eric Berry, and Sean Smith). Their signability, when the time comes, may not prove so challenging. Putting all of their eggs in one basket could just as easily handicap the franchise’s ability to retain other key players.

Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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