ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — One down, two more to go.
That was the checklist for Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey faced on the contract front as the team began training camp practice Thursday at Missouri Western State University.
A holdout by Jamaal Charles ended up being measured in minutes, not days, as the running back and the team agreed Wednesday to a two-year extension that will bring him $18.1 million in new money. Charles was only a few hours late for the deadline for veterans to report to campus.
“I didn’t want to hold out,” he said. “That’s not my personality. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be selfish. I just wanted to get the deal done … to come back and play football.”
Now, Dorsey must get back to finding a way to do new deals or extensions with quarterback Alex Smith and outside linebacker Justin Houston. Those negotiations have been going on since the end of the 2013 season, but neither player appears to close to a revised agreement with the team. Both are under contract for the upcoming season, Smith at $7.5 million and Houston at $1.4 million. It is the final year of both contracts.
“There’s been a lot of continued open conversation between both sides,” Smith said of negotiations between the club and his agent, Tom Condon. “But come camp for me, that’s going to be forgotten about. For me, it’s all about football. And if it gets done, it gets done. But until then, it’s focused on that first game really.”
Speaking publicly for the first time about his contract situation, Houston did not share much information on the state of negotiations or his emotions.
“It’s in God’s hands, I’m here to play football and I’m not going to worry about that,” Houston said. “I’m here to help better the team and do what the coaches ask of me.”
However, the linebacker’s feelings were obvious when he boycotted the team’s offseason program and the mandatory minicamp, costing him just less than $70,000 in fines. He is in the final year of the rookie deal that came with his third-round draft position. Houston fell to that spot after testing positive for marijuana at the 2011 NFL Combine.
In 43 games over his first three seasons, he has 26.5 sacks and 180 total tackles. Houston also had a sack of Andrew Luck in the Chiefs’ 45-44 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in a first-round playoff game last season.
Before the extension was completed with Charles, the Chiefs had $9.4 million available under the 2014 salary cap. Given the money that starting quarterbacks and pass-rushing outside linebackers receive in the league, there appears to be little chance the team could sign both players to long-term deals in the next few months. The Chiefs may be forced to use their franchise-player tag again come next spring if they have not reached agreements with Smith and Houston.
A decision must be made on the importance of the current starting quarterback to the team’s future. Based on a lack of agreement to this point, it would seem the team would like to keep Smith, but it doesn’t view him as a franchise player at the position.
Good quarterbacks are expensive in the NFL. Great quarterbacks are really expensive. Smith is a good quarterback. Are the Chiefs ready to give him mega-millions to solidify the most important position on the field?
If it is not Smith, then who is going to be the man? Finding that guy is going to cost money. If the Chiefs decide Smith is worth of a major investment, the move would limit what they can do with other players looking for big money.
It is the biggest challenge for Dorsey in his first 20 months on the job.
–Last year’s No. 1 overall draft choice, Eric Fisher, was moved back to his college position, left tackle. He spent his rookie season playing right tackle. Along the way, Fisher injured his left shoulder, and postseason surgery was required. That allowed him to come to camp early and work on the field with the rookies and other veterans returning from injury.
“It felt good being out there today,” Fisher said of returning to left tackle. “I’m glad to be back in my old position. It felt natural, and I’m really excited about it.”
Fisher said he weighed in at 315 pounds.
“I’m happy with that weight, and I think they are happy with that weight,” he said.