The Kansas City Chiefs likely have to make a choice between Dee Ford and Justin Houston, and it appears the younger, cheaper option will win out.
Justin Houston has spent eight years in Kansas City. However, his time there appears to be coming to a close.
Houston, 30, is unlikely to be with the Chiefs next season, per multiple conversations within the league. The four-time Pro Bowler is unwilling to take a pay cut without getting more guaranteed money in future seasons. With the Chiefs current cap situation, there’s a strong likelihood that they would rather release Houston and save $14 million against their books in 2019.
For any team attempting to trade for Houston, it would have to accept bloated figures of $15.25 million this year and $17 million in 2020. The former First-Team All-Pro has been productive since signing a six-year, $101 million deal back in the 2015 offseason, but he hasn’t come near matching his 22-sack campaign of 2014. Over the last four years, Houston has missed 21 games while notching 30 sacks.
In the immediate future, Kansas City is leaning toward tagging fellow outside linebacker Dee Ford at approximately $15.8 million. With the team only having $26.17 million in cap space prior to utilizing the tag, releasing Houston would net a savings of $14 million, almost paying Ford’s 2019 salary. More importantly, the Chiefs would retain cap flexibility to make other defensive moves, particularly shoring up the secondary. Last year, Kansas City sported the league’s 31st-ranked defense.
While the situation remains fluid going into the NFL Combine next week, all signs point to Kansas City placing the franchise tag on Ford, and Houston finding another home.