Justin Hickman

Justin Houston Aiming To Top Watt?

“Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston’s career year is happening at the right time, as he is in the final year of a four-year rookie contract that pays $1.406 million this season,” says NFP’s Joel Corry, who goes into detail forecasting the premier pass rusher’s contractual future. Corry’s main points:

  • First the stats. . .Houston is leading the NFL with 12 sacks through eight games (a pace that would break the all-time single-season record), ranks as Pro Football Focus’ top-rated 3-4 outside linebacker and is tied for second in the league with 44 pressures (combined sacks, QB hurries and QB hits).
  • Signing Houston to a long-term deal is a priority for the Chiefs, but multiple reports indicate the team and player (agent Joel Segal) are far apart on terms.
  • Segal will likely seek to top Texans defensive end and reigning defensive player of the year J.J. Watt‘s record-setting, six-year, $100MM mega deal ($51.88 guaranteed), which is the gold standard for defensive players right now. Watt is the NFL’s highest-paid non-quarterback based on average yearly salary ($16.67MM).
  • While Houston’s deal is up, he won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of unrestricted free agency because the Chiefs can (will) franchise tag him twice if need be. Corry estimates the tag number will be approximately $13.25MM in 2015 and $15.9MM in 2016.
  • One “major obstacle” to a deal could be the team’s insistence on quarterback Alex Smith, who signed a four-year, $68MM deal ($45MM guaranteed) in August, remaining the highest-paid Chief. This is typical salary cap structure, according to Corry, who sites the example of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s place atop Detroit’s salary hierarchy even though receiver Calvin Johnson is widely regarded as a better overall player.
  • In summation, “Based on the changing market conditions for elite defensive players and the relationship between salaries of top pass rushing defensive ends and linebackers that consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks, expect Houston to sign a long-term deal somewhere between $14.5 million per year and $15.5 million per year as long as he doesn’t sustain a serious injury before the end of the season,” estimates Corry.

Contract Tenders: Monday

Cowboys punter Chris Jones signed his exclusive rights tender of $645K, writes Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com. The move locks down Dallas’ punter situation but eats up about $150K of the ~$2MM salary cap space the club had to work with. Jones averaged 45 yards per punt in his first full season with the Cowboys. The latest contract tenders from around the NFL..

  • Restricted free agent tackle Byron Bell has received a second-round tender worth $2.187MM from the Panthers, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer (via Twitter). The club also tendered exclusive rights free agent Chris Scott, tweets ESPN.com’s David Newton.
  • The Chargers have only two exclusive rights free agents in linebacker Bront Bird and guard Stephen Schilling and they won’t be tendering either one, tweets Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego.
  • Jets linebacker Nick Bellore got the low restricted free agent tender, a source tells ESPN’s Adam Caplan (on Twitter). Bellore led Gang Green in special teams kickoff tackles last season.
  • The Ravens won’t extend an RFA tender to wide receiver Tandon Doss, a source tells Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. The team could still bring Doss back on a smaller deal though.
  • Lions wide receiver Kris Durham confirmed via Twitter that he inked his tender with the club. Durham, a fourth-round pick in 2011, became a more significant part of the Lions’ offense in 2013, racking up 38 receptions, 490 receiving yards, and a pair of touchdowns while starting 13 games. He didn’t perform well based on Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required), which ranked him 109th out of 111 qualified receivers, but he’s still just 25 years old, and may not be relied upon for quite as large a role in 2014 if the team adds a receiver or two.
  • Joe Morgan and Jed Collins won’t receive RFA tenders from the Saints, but the club still has interest in re-signing the two free agents, says Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune.
  • The Rams won’t tender tight end Mike McNeill, who was eligible for restricted free agency, tweets Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • Linebacker Justin Hickman has signed his ERFA tender from the Colts, according to Craig Kelley of Colts.com (via Twitter).

Luke Adams contributed to this post.