With linebacker Dee Ford in line for the franchise tag and plenty of other young, ascending players who need to be paid (Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones, Patrick Mahomes, for example), linebacker Justin Houston could be in danger, grave or otherwise. But before the Chiefs would cut Houston, they’ll try to trade him. Or, perhaps more accurately, they’ll create the impression that other teams want to trade for him.
Consider this carefully worded (possibly) tweet from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media: “The Chiefs have had trade talks centered around star pass-rusher Justin Houston. With Houston’s cap number and the potential to franchise tag Dee Ford, Houston appears to be a rare top pass-rusher available. Teams have been calling with real interest.”
But here’s the real question: Are teams calling the Chiefs, or are the Chiefs calling teams? It’s a critical distinction; the former means there’s a demand for Houston, and the latter means the Chiefs hope to create a demand.
If it’s the latter, it’s not the first time a team will have spun a story in the hopes of creating a market that may not exist. In 2017, Rapoport reported that teams were calling about a trade for Broncos safety T.J. Ward. In reality, the Broncos were calling teams about trading him. And when they couldn’t find a taker, the Broncos cut Ward.
As one source with another team tells PFT, the Chiefs are simply trying to drum up interest, and that a trade is likely only if the compensation isn’t significant.
Houston is due to make $15.25 million in base salary this season. A trade or a pre-June 1 cut would result in a $7.1 million cap charge. Keeping Houston would cost $21.1 million against the cap.