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With the July 15 deadline for franchised players less than 48 hours away, we’re looking today at the unsigned player deemed most likely to work out a long-term deal with his current team. While Jason Pierre-Paul begins his recovery from a hand injury and Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas try in vain to match Calvin Johnson‘s contract, Justin Houston and the Chiefs appear to have a reasonable chance of reaching an agreement.
Houston, 26, has been one of the league’s best pass rushers in recent years, racking up 43 sacks in 43 games over the past three seasons, including an NFL-best 22 in 2014. You could make a case that only J.J. Watt is a more valuable defender than Houston, and recent reports have suggested that the Chiefs pass rusher could be seeking a contract in the neighborhood of Watt’s six-year, $100MM deal.
Ndamukong Suh easily surpassed Watt’s deal this winter, but Suh had a ton of leverage, hitting free agency after the Lions deemed it impractical to use the franchise tag on him. A player signing an extension with his current team is unlikely to land that sort of payday, which is why Houston’s camp figures to identify Watt’s extension as a more attainable target.
Houston reportedly tested positive for marijuana at the NFL’s 2011 scouting combine, which resulted in him dropping to the third round. The league’s policy on substance abuse calls for strict penalties for repeated marijuana violations, but by all accounts, Houston has stayed out of trouble since entering the league. While that doesn’t mean that a long-term investment is risk-free for Kansas City, the last four years likely strengthened the team’s confidence in the 26-year-old. Whether the club is confident enough to pay him roughly $16MM per year remains to be seen.
What do you think? Is Houston worthy of a six-year, $100MM-type contract, like the one Watt received? If not, what do you think is a fair price for Houston? How high should the Chiefs be willing to go before they call off negotiations and try to simply bring their star pass rusher back on his one-year deal? Jump into the comment section below and let us know what you think!