The Kansas City Chiefs didn't botch the situation like the Oakland Raiders did a year ago with left tackle Jared Veldheer. They placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on linebacker Justin Houston, a 26-year old pass rushing stud, assuring that either he remains in Kansas City for at least another season or that the team receives two first round picks as compensation if another team signs him to an offer sheet the Chiefs don't wish to match.
Houston led the NFL with 22 sacks in 2014. He also had 11 in 2013 and 10 in 2012. The production is there. He is also considered to be solid in pass coverage and against the run. He is a perfect fit in the defense the Arizona Cardinals run. He would play 3-4 outside linebacker as he did in KC.
Houston would make more than $13 million if he were to play out the season agreeing to the franchise offer.
That's a lot of money, but it's nothing near what he would get on the open market. While the Chiefs do have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement with Houston, he is able to negotiate with other teams.
Should the Cardinals consider him?
There is talk of $100 million dollars in a deal. Six or seven years, $100 million? Yes, that is a lot of money.
But what could be the impact?
Imagine how good the defense would be with an elite pass rusher like Houston. Imagine how much better Alex Okafor would be opposite him. Imagine how much better the coverage would be in the secondary. It would essentially mean the Cardinals wouldn't need two great cover guys at corner.
The question is whether Houston is worth the money and the draft picks. You could think of it this way -- would any one or two first rounders provide the instant and long-term impact Houston could? Houston is a sure thing. Every draft pick is a roll of the dice. If Houston is healthy, he will get between 10-20 sacks for many years.
Having that type of sack master masks a lot of other problems there might be on a defense. The thing is that there aren't huge holes. The secondary is strong. There is defensive line talent. If Daryl Washington returns, there will be speed in the middle of the field and the team is expected to add speed in the middle of the field. Add Houston to that mix and you have the potential for elite defensive status.
First round picks give the potential for great production at a fraction of the cost, but rarely do they come close to what Houston has been able to do over the last three seasons.
If you were general manager Steve Keim, would you pull the trigger on this game changer? There is another very good pass rusher in free agency that won't likely command the level of compensation Houston will (Jerry Hughes) and the team would still keep its draft picks.
Which way would you go?