Four players who received the franchise tag from their respective teams earlier this offseason have yet to sign their one-year contracts, which means they’re technically still free agents, as I explained a couple weeks ago. Nonetheless, the most likely outcome for these players involves them returning to their current clubs, either on a one-year deal or on a long-term extension.
One of these four players is Justin Houston, the NFL’s reigning sack leader, who earned an All-Pro nod after racking up 22 sacks and forcing four fumbles in 2014. While Houston’s 22 sacks doubled his previous career high, he took down quarterbacks 21 times in 27 combined games in 2012 and 2013, so his ascent to the top of the league’s leaderboard certainly didn’t come out of nowhere.
On the heels of his third consecutive Pro Bowl season, Houston is in line for a massive raise, and he’ll earn $13.195MM in 2015 if he simply signs his one-year tender. However, the standout pass rusher is seeking a long-term deal worth even more than $13MM per year. Top defenders like J.J. Watt and Mario Williams are earning $16MM+ annually, and it makes sense that Houston would aim for something in that neighborhood, while the Chiefs may prefer a Robert Quinn-type pact (four years, $57MM).
Of course, Ndamukong Suh might have altered the entire market for front-seven defenders earlier this year when he landed a six-year contract with the Dolphins averaging over $19MM. However, Suh reached the open market and attracted multiple bidders, while Houston remains under the Chiefs’ control this year and next (if they decide to franchise him again). Joel Corry of CBSSports.com recently suggested that Suh’s deal could prompt agent Joel Segal to raise his salary demands for his client, but the Chiefs are extremely unlikely to commit a larger per-year amount to Houston than they’re paying to quarterback Alex Smith ($17MM annually).
What do you think? Will the Chiefs and Houston be able to reach a compromise and strike a deal on a multiyear extension before the July 15 deadline? Will the 26-year-old simply play out a one-year contract and try his luck again in 2016? Or do you see Houston’s contract situation heading in a more unexpected direction?