The frustratingly burned bridge between Justin Houston and KC Chiefs

Justin Houston Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Justin Houston Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

At this point in his career, veteran pass rusher Justin Houston is soon going to be considering the ways in which he wants to step away from the game he’s often dominated for much of the last decade. At this point in the offseason, the Kansas City Chiefs should be considering the ways in which they can improve a thin pass rush for the upcoming year.

It’s frustrating that an obviously burned bridge is keeping both sides from an ending that makes plenty of sense for all parties involved.

At the present time, Houston is still waiting as a veteran defender on the open market alongside other familiar faces a la Carlos Dunlap, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ryan Kerrigan, and Everson Griffen. Given his proven productivity in the last couple of seasons, Houston will find a place to land in 2022 at some point even if he’s no longer a high-profile free agent.

Given the shared history and present team needs, it’s frustrating that there’s an obviously burned bridge between Justin Houston and the K.C. Chiefs.

Last season, the Baltimore Ravens came calling on the last day of July with a one-year deal for the (then) 32-year-old, and he responded with 4.5 sacks and 24 pressures while playing in 61 percent of all defensive snaps. In the previous two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, Houston put up 53 total pressures and 19 total sacks while starting every game in Indy—also in his thirties.

In other words, ever since the Chiefs released him after eight seasons with the team in 2019, Houston has remained a productive edge rusher for three more seasons even as he’s gotten older. And while his days of chasing record sack numbers are long behind him, he’s still more than capable of providing reliably productive reps for a team in need of rotational help.

Here’s the frustrating part: there has never once been a rumor floated over the few offseasons that the Chiefs are amenable to a return from Houston. Despite his long-term presence on this team’s defense and the productivity he can still provide, the Chiefs have turned elsewhere for their pass-rushing needs up front ever since they set him free. Following Houston’s departure, it was Alex Okafor. Last year it was Melvin Ingram. This year, fans are still waiting for the veteran answer.

Through it all, Houston has remained more productive than anyone brought in by the Chiefs. Ingram was a nice mid-season boost, but he never once chose the Chiefs and Brett Veach was required to part ways with a draft pick at the trade deadline in order to secure his services. Looking back, it would have been nice if the Chiefs could have retained Houston all this time on a deal that made sense.

With Ingram off the table, the Chiefs are down to very few options in free agency which makes the availability of Justin Houston all the more glaring. It’s as if someone in Arrowhead doesn’t want Houston to ever enter the building again or vice versa.

In 2015, Houston signed a mammoth $101 million deal with the Chiefs over the course of six years. The contract became problematic, and the Chiefs eventually cleared $14 million in cap space in 2019 when they cut him, but maybe the sour taste of that transaction has never left Houston’s mind.

If a bridge has truly been burned, it’s too bad because the reunion could be a great story—one that makes sense for both sides. Instead, it seems as if fans will likely see another veteran eventually join the ranks even as Houston likely joins his fourth NFL franchise.

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