After spending the first eight seasons of his career as a Chief, could a homecoming be possible for Houston and Kansas City? If so, would it be beneficial enough for Veach and KC to even attempt?
The Chiefs have quite a few holes to fill this offseason, and while the offensive line seems to be everyone’s main focus–inside and outside the organization–there are still a few patches on the defense that need to be revisited.
One of those patches is the linebacker position, which definitely showed in the Super Bowl when they couldn’t seem to apply any pressure on Brady. This is something that Chiefs GM Brett Veach mentioned in his press conference earlier this week when he said this off-season is “about getting better on the offensive line, the defensive line and linebacker”.
While the 2021 draft is deep in linebackers and there are plenty of options that the Chiefs can look at there are also plenty of linebackers in this off-season’s free agency class that the Chiefs could take a peek at, one of them being the recently released LB Kyle Van Noy who has been extremely talented in Miami.
One other LB testing free agency is a name that should sound familiar to Chiefs fans…Justin Houston, but how logical is Houston’s return to Kansas City? Would it make the defense that much better?
The starting outside linebacker for the Chiefs from 2011-2018 has spent the past two seasons in Indianapolis under a 2-year/$24,000,000 contract, and while he was there he accumulated 19.5 sacks, 21 tackles for a loss, 31 QB hits, 21 QB hurries, 70 combined tackles, three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries (all including the Colts one playoff game).
When Houston was in Kansas City he led the league in sacks (22) in 2014, he averaged 9.8 sacks per season, earned four Pro Bowl invitations and one All-Pro selection, but he was becoming less and less reliable regarding his health and ability to stay on the field which ultimately led to the Chiefs letting him sign with another team in 2019.
Since he left KC he’s only played his old team one time which he said he had “extra motivation” during because of the way everything ended with the Chiefs, during that game he played out of his mind and eventually handed the Chiefs their first loss of that season, 19-13, in the lowest-scoring game (pre-Super Bowl LV) of Mahomes’ NFL career.
Fast forward to today where Houston has averaged roughly the same sacks/season (9.5) but has not missed a game (including the playoffs) for the Colts which has sparked a lot of conversation on social media about whether the Chiefs “lost” when picking Frank Clark over Houston.
So how can Kansas City bring Houston back and make it work after the history that the team has with the star linebacker?
First, they would have to get Frank Clark to restructure his $104-million deal in order to save the Chiefs some much-needed cap space–this should be done with or without the addition of Houston, especially considering Clark has been less of an asset in the regular season than Houston has in the past two seasons.
While Clark’s postseason stats are insanely impressive (logging at least one sack in all but one playoff game for KC) it does not benefit the Chiefs having such a large contract going to a player who only regularly shows up post-Week 17 when they could re-invest some of that money to a defensive player who can bring pressure for the first 16 games of the season and not just mainly in the playoffs.
The next step would have to be striking a low-cost, veteran deal with Houston if he would be willing to play for less money, which is something Houston showed he was not a fan of during the 2015 season when negotiating his $101-million deal after being franchise tagged.
The 32-year old’s new deal could easily be incentive-heavy and have contingencies regarding playing time (i.e. play 75% of the snaps for an extra $2 million) or possibly performance-based (i.e. acquire 10 sacks during the 2021 season and earn another $1 million) or even a combination of both.
The final thing that would have to happen is that no other team would be pursuing Houston during this coming off-season which seems unlikely after a league source said the Colts are likely trying to re-sign him this off-season (via FanSided).
It’s obvious GM Veach is a wizard with the cap, something the Chiefs should be happy about considering how cap space is being influenced this off-season, but could he get a deal done to bring the star LB back to the Chiefs defensive front?
If so it would be more beneficial than some fans might think, especially considering how well Houston has done since leaving KC, but also it would be even more beneficial if Veach were to get it done before the 2021 NFL draft so that the front office could allocate picks to other needs on the field like the offensive line or possibly the wide receiver core.