Joel Corry of CBS Sports and the National Football Post joined BK on The Inside Slant to discuss Justin Houston’s newly signed 6-year, $101 million contract. Joel and BK also discuss the players that are the next in line for a massive contract extension: Travis Kelce and Dontari Poe.
All of that and more on today’s episode of The Inside Slant.
Q: Can you give me an overview of Justin Houston’s contract?
A: Justin Houston’s contract is $101 million over six years. That part is a little surprising. I thought the Chiefs would stick to their previous conventions of five year deals. That’s the maximum length they’ve done recently. $101 million is significant because JJ Watt signed an extension for $100 million last year. That clearly was a benchmark for Justin Houston and his agent. There’s $52.5 million in contract guarantees. This is a pretty player-friendly structure, which is what the Chiefs have done previously with Alex Smith and Dwayne Bowe. $32.5 million is guaranteed at signing. $43 million is guaranteed by next March. That is not unexpected. There’s $53.5 million (guaranteed) in the first three years, which is the same amount as Mario Williams had in the first three years of his deal. There are $1.25 million of workout bonuses through the last five years of the deal. The Chiefs are picking up a little under $8.1 million in cap room because Justin Houston was counting at his $13.195 million franchise tag prior to the deal. His cap number is now $5.1 million for 2015. His 2016 cap number is $19.1 million. Factor that into the equation, the Chiefs are going to have somewhere between $27-28 million in cap room using a conservative cap estimate for next year.
Q: Is there any way the Chiefs can get out of this contract over the coming years?
A: It’s a three-year deal for $53 million. That we know for certain. In 2018, his cap number is $19.1 million, and the dead money if he’s no longer on the roster is $8.2 million. So, if Justin Houston starts to tail off, or if he starts to turn into the defensive version of Dwayne Bowe, he’ll be gone after 2017.
Q: How much did the Chiefs lose out on because they didn’t get this done earlier?
A: This is the latest illustration of the longer a team waits to sign a Pro Bowl caliber player, the more it will cost them in the long-run. This time last year, the deal could have been done in the Tamba Hali neighborhood. Tamba’s deal that he signed in 2011 as a franchise player had an $11.5 million average, $35 million in guarantees. The highest paid linebacker is Clay Matthews at $13.2 million per year. It would have been under Clay Matthews at this point last year. Another point when this deal could have been done was before March when free agency started. Once Ndamukong Suh reset the non-quarterback market to be over $19 million per year and $60 million in guarantees, then this deal got harder to do and the price went up. The one thing the Chiefs should be thankful for is the fact that JJ Watt did a deal with 2 years left on his contract. Just imagine if JJ Watt played the fourth year of his rookie deal with the type of year he had, and then the Texans were doing this deal after Ndamukong Suh hit the marketplace… That would have been a mind-boggling number. It would have made it that much harder to get Justin Houston done, and I think it would have increased the likelihood that he would have been playing out his franchise tag this year.
Q: Do the Chiefs have enough cap space after re-signing Justin Houston to sign a guy like Evan Mathis?
A: Yeah, there’s enough to get Evan Mathis done. I look at him as someone that – if he’s fortunate – given the time of year… It would be a deal similar to the Ben Grubbs deal. I think the reason he’s still on the open market is because no one is willing to meat his contract price. I think he’s like 33 or 34. So he’s no spring chicken, but he’s been very productive. And we know he can be good in this system. If you look at the Ben Grubbs deal – if he can get $17.5 million over 3 years, he should take that. I don’t think he’s going to get there, and Ben Grubbs has a $2.4 million cap number this year.
Q: Moving to another player… What do you think the Chiefs would have to offer Dontari Poe in order for him to re-sign before the end of his rookie deal?
A: If I’m Dontari Poe, I don’t want to do anything right now. Because I’m waiting for Marcell Dareus to help clarify my market. I expect that to be a very strong deal. Buffalo did an extension of 1-year for $10 million for Kyle Williams. I know Dareus has some off-field and maturity issues, but that’s going to be a very strong deal. I think you set the benchmark at a minimum of $10 million per year. That’s where you would have to go right now if you wanted to get Dontari Poe. I’m looking at San Diego’s guy, Corey Liuget. He signed at $10.25 million per year, five year extension, with over $30 million in guarantees. So I kind of look at that as the floor.
Q: Travis Kelce is probably still a year away from getting a contract extension, but if he has another year like he did last year, what kind of a deal is he going to be looking for?
A: If he has another good year, then the guy he will be looking at – and you’re going to cring when I say this – is Julius Thomas. He’s going to be looking at Julius Thomas money, because he’s one of those pass-catching tight ends. Thomas got $46 million over 5 years, with $25 million guaranteed… But what Kansas City would probably be more comfortable paying is what Charles Clay is making, which is $7.5 million per year, with the low $20 millions in guarantees… And you had an older guy, Greg Olsen, take a 3-year extension at $7.5 million per year. And Jordan Cameron took a 2-year deal after a horrible contract year, which was $15 million over 2 years. So, I don’t think you’re going to escape with anything less than a $7.5 million average if Travis Kelce is just scratching the surface.
Q: What do you expect to happen on the Eric Berry contract front?
A: I don’t think Eric Berry wants to be a free agent next year if he doesn’t play football this year, because you don’t know what you’re getting, and there won’t be a whole lot of demand at a high dollar amount. You don’t know if you’re getting the guy that was very productive before the illness or not. It might be in his best interest to do a one-year extension where they spread out his salary from this year. Because if he’s on the non-football illness list, they have the right to not pay him…
Q: Does that ever actually happen?
A: Yeah, it does. Sometimes you don’t pay the guy, or you pay him a lower salary. I remember when Jason Peters – who was one of Andy Reid’s players – tore his achilles & missed all of the 2012 season. They paid him about half of his salary. Also, Mike Patterson – who had brain surgery – was on the NFI, he had a reduced salary as well. It’s something that teams do do on some occasion… But I don’t know if Eric wants to be free next year, because there won’t be a lot of demand. So it might be in his best interest to spread out his salary over two years, and load him up with some incentives for 2016.
Q: Are there any other contracts on the Chiefs that you find to be intriguing?
A: Yeah, your big corner that can run – Sean Smith. When he was a free agent, it was a depressed cornerback market. He’s now turned into what is the closest thing the Chiefs have to a shutdown corner. And he’s got rare size for a corner. I know the deal he’ll be targeting is Byron Maxwell’s. He’ll say he’s just as big, and better than Byron Maxwell. So he’s going to be setting his sights on something in the $11 million neighborhood, and beyond $25 million in guarantees, considering his last stint in free agency didn’t work out the way he wanted it to. The thing for Kansas City is that they may have a replacement waiting in the wings. They may have drafted his replacement in Marcus Peters…