Chiefs should get their money's worth from big Justin Houston contract

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Justin Houston just signed the richest contract awarded by the Kansas City Chiefs and the most lucrative given to a linebacker in NFL history.

Good for Houston. If anyone is deserving, it's him. He led the NFL with 22 sacks last season and, having turned 26 last winter, should have many good seasons ahead.

But this isn't one of those one-sided deals, where the player wins and the team loses. The Chiefs are getting a player so young and talented that maybe in six years, after they've paid Houston all of his $101 million, they'll be viewed as the ones who got the bargain.

This was a bet the Chiefs had to make.

The Chiefs see an opening in the AFC West, one that hasn't existed since the Denver Broncos acquired quarterback Peyton Manning three years ago. The division championship is in play for the Chiefs in a way it hasn't been since Manning was a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

Beyond that, the Chiefs have Super Bowl aspirations, not just for 2015 but in the years beyond. We could debate for some time whether those are realistic visions, but the Chiefs feel strongly about their position.

They won't achieve a Super Bowl title, much less an AFC West championship, by letting a talent such as Houston sit on the sideline or, worse, play for another team. The Chiefs needed to make Houston one of theirs not just for 2015 but for the long term so they could build their defense around him.

Chairman Clark Hunt, general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid knew that. That's why this deal was destined to happen.

"Justin is a great football player," Dorsey said Wednesday. "We've said all along if you can retain your own great football players that helps you sustain [success]. He's young enough where he's going to have many great years with the Kansas City Chiefs organization.

"It's a fair deal for everybody here."

Houston is the second-highest-paid defensive player in the league behind only Ndamukong Suh of the Miami Dolphins, so if this deal blows up on them, there's no minimizing the collateral damage.

Nobody is a sure bet, but Houston might be as close as they come. He fell to the third round in the 2011 draft because he tested positive for marijuana at the scouting combine, but he's been an impeccable citizen since arriving in Kansas City. He keeps himself in immaculate physical condition, a sign that he not only loves to play football but works at it, too.

Houston is about as sound as an investment as the Chiefs could reasonably make. There's a good chance that in six years, they'll have received their money's worth.