The Kansas City Chiefs signaled they have no intention of parting ways with Justin Houston on Monday, moving swiftly to place the franchise tag on their All-Pro pass rusher.
The four-year veteran set a franchise-record with 22 sacks last season, just a half-sack short of the NFL record. He also made 68 tackles while playing the final year of his rookie deal.
The Chiefs and Houston's representatives began discussions on a long-term contract last offseason but made little progress. Those discussions resumed this past season as Houston's value skyrocketed amid his record-setting sack pace. But after discussions planned for last week's NFL scouting combine failed to produce much progress, the franchise tag became inevitable. The Chiefs' deadline to place the tag on Houston was mid-afternoon, and the decision was official by Monday morning.
Houston would make about $13 million on a one-year contract if he signs the tender, though that's no guarantee. The two sides still have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal. Now, though, Houston may also negotiate with other teams. The Chiefs retain the right to match the terms of an offer or receive two first-round picks as compensation.
One battle that could be looming is over Houston's position. He is considered an outside linebacker in the Chiefs' base defense, but could be considered a defensive end. If he were to be classified in that position, the franchise tag is expected to be about $14 million.
Regardless of what happens, the cash-strapped Chiefs will likely need to make some additional roster moves soon to free up salary cap space.
They have already parted ways with several backups, including tight end Anthony Fasano, and could begin restructuring contracts or cutting outright some of their most notable players — among them wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and linebacker Tamba Hali.
Bowe in particular has become the subject of plenty of criticism. Not only does he carry a massive salary cap number, he also failed to catch a single touchdown pass last season. "It's hard to play in the National Football League," Dorsey said. "(Bowe) will probably tell you himself that he did not live up to his high standards but now we have 2015 to come back."
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