The Kansas City Chiefs have already moved on from veterans Alex Smith and Derrick Johnson, but won’t be saying goodbye to Justin Houston this offseason.
After winning consecutive AFC West titles over the last two years for the first time in franchise history, the Chiefs are blowing up a large portion of their roster. New general manager Brett Veach is reshaping the team with a younger approach, leading to the trade of Alex Smith and the announced release of longtime inside linebacker Derrick Johnson.
On Tuesday, Pro Football Talk reported that outside linebacker Justin Houston would not be released. Houston, 29, is scheduled to make $20.6 million this year, but Kansas City would only recoup $7.9 million if he is released before June 1.
Additionally, Houston remains the best defensive player on the team alongside Marcus Peters and Eric Berry. While he hasn’t been able to replicate his 22-sack season of 2014, the former All-Pro remains a force off the edge. Few at his position can play the run with the technique and strength of Houston, all while continuing to command double teams when rushing the passer.
Houston has three years left remaining on his massive six-year, $101 million pact that he signed in July 2015. Last season, the former third-round pick played in 15 games and racked up 9.5 sacks, sitting out a meaningless Week 17 contest at Denver. The total is more impressive when you consider that the Chiefs had no pressure from the other side, with Frank Zombo getting most of the snaps in lieu of the injured Dee Ford.
When healthy, Houston has been a tremendous player on his current deal. He has only played in 31 games — mostly due to a torn ACL — but has 21 sacks in that time. Factor in his run defense and ability to play in coverage, and Houston remains a cornerstone in Kansas City.