9:49am: Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (all Twitter links) confirms, via a league source, that the Chiefs used the non-exclusive tag on Houston, meaning other teams can pursue him, if they so choose. For his part, Houston doesn’t seem all too pleased with being franchised — he’s already considering waiting until Week 10 to sign his franchise tender, according to PFT. Florio adds that Houston will consult with the NFLPA to decide whether to fight for a defensive end franchise salary rather than a linebacker salary. As was the case with Graham last year, I doubt that fight would be a fruitful one.
8:37am: As expected, the Chiefs have ensured that star pass rusher Justin Houston won’t reach the open market as a fully unrestricted free agent next week. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the team has officially placed the franchise tag on the NFL’s reigning sack leader.
After recording back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks in 2012 and 2013 – including 11 in 11 games in ’13 – Houston had a career year this past season, racking up 22 sacks, 68 overall tackles, and four forced fumbles. Houston was far and away the top-ranked 3-4 outside linebacker by Pro Football Focus’ metrics (subscription required), logging an impressive 87 total quarterback pressures for the season.
By using the franchise tag on Houston, the Chiefs will be formally tendering the 26-year-old a one-year contract offer expected to be worth north of $13MM. Houston will be free to sign that tender at any time, but Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star reports (via Twitter) that’s not expected to happen right away.
Assuming Kansas City is using the non-exclusive tag, Houston is free to negotiate with rival suitors starting next Tuesday. If Houston were to sign an offer sheet with another team in that scenario, the Chiefs would have five days to match it — if they didn’t match the offer, they’d receive two first-round picks from Houston’s new team as compensation.
Of course, whether or not Houston signs the one-year tender offer, a long-term deal with the Chiefs remains a possibility. A year ago, for instance, Jimmy Graham was franchised by the Saints, and – despite a handful of rumors about other teams eyeing him, ultimately he worked out a multiyear agreement with the team just before the July 15 deadline.
While Houston is the first player to officially be tagged today, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Jason Pierre-Paul are all expected to be franchised as well, and others may join them by 3:00pm central time.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.