JULY 24: Houston is present at the Chiefs’ training camp, multiple sources tell Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link).
JULY 16: While he’s still seeking a new contract and remains upset with the Chiefs, linebacker Justin Houston is expected to report to the team’s training camp when it opens next week, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Houston was absent from Kansas City’s spring workouts and minicamp, but will want to avoid incurring up to $30K in daily fines for missing training camp.
Houston, 25, has racked up 21 sacks in 27 games for the Chiefs in the last two seasons, earning spots in consecutive Pro Bowls. However, since he was a third-round pick in 2011, he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract and will earn a base salary of just $1.4MM in 2014.
Because he wasn’t a first-rounder, Houston doesn’t have a fifth-year option on his deal, meaning he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency after the ’14 season. His approaching free agency could improve his leverage, but Houston also has to be careful about missing too much of this year’s training camp — failing to report within 30 days of the regular season opener would cost him an accrued season, in which case he’d only be eligible for restricted free agency in 2015.
Houston is certainly underpaid, and with just a year remaining on his deal, the Chiefs should be motivated to work out a deal that locks him up for multiple years, but the team doesn’t have a significant amount of cap flexibility. As such, this will be an interesting situation to watch during training camp, whether or not Houston is in attendance.