Justin Houston could end up going year to year under franchise tag

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With 12 sacks in nine games, Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston has a shot at setting the single-season sack record.  Whether he has a chance to land a major contract from Kansas City remains unclear.

Player and team remain at impasse.  For the Chiefs, that could mean using the franchise tag to keep Houston in place for 2015.

If the Chiefs tender the tag, look for Houston to immediately sign it.  In 2014, it paid $11.455 million for one season.  (Houston could try to argue that he’s actually a defensive end, which had a franchise tender of $13.1 million in in 2014.)

The Chiefs then would have to decide whether to sign Houston to a long-term deal, let him hit the open market, or give him a 20-percent raise over the 2015 franchise tag to keep him for a sixth season, in 2016.  After that, it’s a 44-percent raise over 2016 to keep him off the market in 2017.

With more and more NFL contracts structured to become year-to-year propositions, someone eventually will choose to accept the injury risk and play it out one year at a time, cashing in and eventually forcing his way to the open market.

Offensively, it could be Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant who does it.  Defensively, Houston could end up being the test case.  It could be the only way to get teams to offer key players contracts that approach their market value.