As Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link) puts it, signing Justin Houston to a new deal will be an expenditure more akin to “shopping at Bloomingdale’s than it is shopping at Sears.” Houston, from what he hears, is slated to make more than Robert Quinn (four-year extension worth ~$67MM) and a bit less than J.J. Watt (six-year extension worth as much as ~$100MM). Despite the hefty price tag, however, a deal is going to get done between the Chiefs and Houston, according to Cole.
Kansas City had serious reservations about making a long-term commitment to the 25-year-old (26 in January) at the start of the year, but the franchise has done a 180 in their perception of him since then. The Chiefs had major concerns about Houston’s attitude and work ethic but he has done a great deal in 2014 to silence, and convert, his front office critics.
Meanwhile, if a deal doesn’t get done between the new sides, things could get very interesting with a battle reminiscent of Jimmy Graham vs. the Saints from this past offseason. If KC doesn’t agree to an extension with Houston, he will argue that he is a defensive end and not a linebacker to increase his salary under the franchise tag, Cole tweets. The franchise tag could be a rather likely outcome, in fact, as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) rightly notes that KC has just $2.892MM of cap room. That’ll make it extremely tough to complete a Houston extension before the end of the season.
Still, if Houston wants to argue that he’s actually a defensive end, he might have a hard time. Houston, according to Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus (via Twitter) has played with his hand on the ground less than 10% of the time this season. I would also add that KC plays a pretty straight forward 3-4 defense, so there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for interpretation on the matter. Linebackers are projected to earn around $13.3MM under the franchise tag for 2015, assuming a $144MM cap, according to Corry (link).