At this point in his career, passing veteran Justin Houston will be thinking about ways he wants to break away from the game he’s often been in control of for the past decade. At this point in the off-season, the Kansas City chiefs should be thinking about ways they can improve the thin-passing rush for next year.
It’s frustrating that the apparent burnt-out bridge prevents both sides from ending up that makes sense for all parties involved.
For now, Houston is still waiting as a seasoned open-market defender alongside other familiar faces like La Carlos Dunlap, Jason Pierre Paul, Ryan Kerrigan and Iverson Griffin. Given his proven productivity in the past two seasons, Houston will find a landing spot in 2022 at some point even if he is no longer a top-ranked free agent.
Given the shared history and current needs of the team, it’s frustrating that there is such a clear burning bridge between Justin Houston and the KC chiefs.
Last season, the Baltimore Ravens came on the last day of July with a one-year deal for the 32-year-old (at the time), and he responded with 4.5 sacks and 24 presses while playing in 61% of all defensive hits. In the previous two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, Houston had put in 53 total presses and 19 total sacks while starting every game in Indy—and he’s also in his 30s.
In other words, since The Chiefs fired him after eight seasons with the team in 2019, Houston has remained a productive strong player for another three seasons even as he has gotten older. And while his days of chasing records are long gone, he still manages to provide reliable, reliable reps for a team that needs help in turns.
Here’s the disappointing part: There hasn’t been a once rumor circulating in the past few seasons that the Chiefs are coming back from Houston. Despite his long-standing presence in this team’s defense and the productivity he can still provide, the Chiefs have shifted elsewhere for their fast-passing needs up front since they released him. After Houston’s departure, it was Alex Okafor. Last year it was Melvin Ingram. This year, fans are still waiting for the veteran’s answer.
Through it all, Houston has remained more productive than anyone the presidents have brought in. Ingram was a nice push in the middle of the season, but he never picked the Chiefs and Brett Fitch was required to drop by picking the draft on the trade deadline in order to secure his services. Looking back, it would have been nice if the Chiefs kept Houston all this time as a bargain that made sense.
With Ingram off the table, Chiefs are down to very few options in the free agency making Justin Houston’s availability even more apparent. It’s as if someone in Arrowhead doesn’t want Houston to enter the building again or vice versa.
In 2015, Houston signed a massive $101 million deal with the Chiefs over the course of six years. The contract became problematic, and the chiefs eventually liquidated $14 million of maximum space in 2019 when they ditched it, but the sour taste of that deal may never have left Houston’s mind.
If the bridge was actually burned, that’s too bad because a reunion could be a great story – one that makes sense for both sides. Instead, it looks as though fans will likely see another veteran eventually join the ranks even as Houston likely joins its fourth NFL franchise.