The Justin Houston era is over in Kansas City.
Justin Houston has been released by the Chiefs on Sunday after a failed attempt to find a trade partner.
What seemed inevitable was indeed announced by the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend, paying him a last well deserved tribute.
“Over the last eight seasons we’ve had the ability to watch Justin grow into a leader on and off the playing field,” Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement announcing the release. “His passion helped him become one the most successful pass rushers in franchise history. We appreciate his contributions to our team and community and he’ll always be considered a part of the Chiefs family.”
The 30-year-old pass rusher is a fan favorite and his departure will be very tough to overcome. And that can be easily explained because the four-time Pro Bowl pass rusher has been among the best players in his position over the years, and he showed his strength once again last season alongside Dee Ford.
Justin Houston has achieved very good results in Kansas City.
As a result, after eight seasons, he ranks fourth in franchise history with 78.5 sacks, right after Tamba Hali, Neil Smith, and number one Derrick Thomas culminating at 126.5 sacks. That’s a pretty nice crowd to be with!
Back in 2014, he racked up a monstrous 22 sacks — ranking second in single-season NFL history in the process. The veteran has put up nine-plus sacks five times, including this past season.
But given the new defense concocted by the new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, mostly going for a 4-3 scheme and a younger group, Justin Houston was likely to be released. Kansas City cleared $14 million in cap space, and leaving $7.1 million in dead money, needing as much cap space as possible to rebuild a defense in distress last season.
Needless to say, Justin Houston has still a lot of potential and can be a difference maker with any other team in the NFL. In 12 regular season games in 2018, Houston compiled nine sacks and 37 tackles; he added two postseason sacks. With several free agents staying put, via the franchise tag or extension contract, the veteran pass rusher will have many offers down the road in a league which is in constant search of pressure producers.
He remains a player who will be in demand.
Reid praised Houston for his career saying: “I’ve been fortunate to get to know Justin over the last six seasons, and not only is he a talented football player, but he’s a tremendous person,” Reid said. “He really helped set the tone, and I appreciate the work he put in with us. I wish him the best as he continues his career.”
Nonetheless, the NFL is a business and even if this kind of decision is never easy to make, parting ways with one of the most recognizable faces of the Chiefs is the best way to move forward and rebuild a team that dreams of the Saint Grail. The Super Bowl is the final goal in 2020, 50 years after their first and only Super Bowl win in 1970, and it could be highly symbolic!
As for Houston, he remains a player who will be in demand. After seeing the Brandon Graham deal with the Philadelphia Eagles at the same age, 30 years old, it is wise to think that Houston will cash in once more.
What are the teams that could be interested in getting Justin Houston?
The Cleveland Browns and general manager John Dorsey signed Houston after the 2014 season to a six-year, $101 million deal. The Indianapolis Colts are another team in search of a pass rusher and Chris Ballard was around in Kansas City from 2013 to 2016, so he knows Houston very well. And finally the Green Bay Packers, in which new outside linebackers coach Mike Smith could want him, having worked with Houston last year.
It will be hard saying goodbye to Justin Houston, so Kansas City has one last thing left to do: thank him for his loyalty and hard work!