Five Chiefs were absent at the start of the team’s offseason training program on Monday, but one — outside linebacker Justin Houston — could hardly be considered a surprise.
After months of failed negotiations toward a long-term deal, the Chiefs slapped the non-exclusive franchise tag on Houston in March.
The tender will pay him $13.1 million this season, but is far short of the lucrative deals signed by other elite defensive players over the past several months, including Ndamukong Suh with Miami.
Hence the reason Chiefs coach Andy Reid expects Houston — who also skipped the entirety of the organized team activities last year as he protested his lack of a new deal — to once again do the same.
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“I would probably say it would probably be similar to last year until things get worked out,” Reid said. “And I think they’ll get worked out.”
Houston rejoined the team during training camp last July. The Chiefs have until July 15 to sign him to a long-term deal, something team chairman Clark Hunt said he was optimistic about at the league meetings in March.
“I think both sides want to be here, for whatever is said,” Reid said. “I know how the jockeying (is). I’ve been in this long enough to understand (what happens) when you’re dealing with negotiations ... with good players. They’ll come to a number that’s good for both sides and it will all work out and he’ll be here for a long period of time.”
If Houston wants to play hardball, he can. He is not obligated to sign the tender, or show up, at all, until week 10 of the regular season. At that point, he has to join the team to earn an accrued season, which will essentially be another step toward unrestricted free agency.
Or, he can fish for an offer sheet from a team willing to give up its first-round picks for the next two years. That seems unlikely, given the fact it hasn’t happened in 15 years. If Houston signs an offer sheet, the Chiefs can either match the offer or take the pick — though Reid insists the latter is not the preference.
“If something happens, we’ll be ready for that too,” Reid said. “But we want him here, and I think that’s been stated before. He’s a good person and a good player and he’s one of our team leaders. Sometimes these things just take time to get worked out.”
Reid reemphasized that he has faith in general manager John Dorsey and the team’s money men, Trip MacCracken and Brandt Tilis, to work out a deal with Houston’s agent, Joel Segal. He also noted that he has faith Houston won’t drop off physically despite missing the workouts with his team.
“I know on the other side that Justin is going to work his tail off because that’s the way he’s wired, and he’ll make sure he’s ready to go when the time comes,” Reid said.
Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson sounded confident something would eventually get worked out between the two sides.
“I probably shouldn’t talk about guys that aren’t here, but when the season hits, we’ll have all our bullets — put it like that,” said Johnson, when asked about Houston.
Reid seemed to agree.
“He knows this is a good place for him, we know it’s a good place for him, we’ve just got to get it worked out,” Reid said. “He’s got a good agent, we’ve got good representation here. So between Joel and Trip, they’ll get it all worked out.”
Also absent — Safety Daniel Sorensen and tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif were also absent at the start of workouts for academic reasons, Reid said. Sorensen is graduating from Brigham Young. Duvernay-Tardif, who is studying to be a doctor, is finishing up his residency.
Safety Eric Berry was also absent as he battles lymphoma.
“He’s doing great,” Reid said. “He’s got a couple of treatments left. Those treatments kind of knock the dog out of you but he’s fighting through it and working out like a wild man.”
Quarterback Tyler Bray has rehabbing his torn ACL, Reid said, but he isn’t doing it in Kansas City.