KANSAS CITY, Mo. – All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston waited patiently as he continued his offseason workouts in Georgia.
Houston, whom the Chiefs designated as a non-exclusive franchise player on March 2, didn’t attend organized team activities or the mandatory minicamp.
The fifth-year pro skipped those offseason events while the Chiefs and his agent were in negotiations to have a multiyear contract or extension in place before Wednesday’s league-wide deadline.
Tuesday offered a strong indication a deal was close when Houston received a phone call to come to Kansas City.
“I knew if I was flying out here,” Houston said Wednesday during a media conference call, “they wouldn’t have me fly out here for nothing.”
Indeed, the trip more than proved worth the time and handsomely rewarded Houston’s patience.
The Chiefs made Houston the NFL’s highest-paid linebacker Wednesday by signing him to a lucrative six-year, $101 million contract with $52.5 million guaranteed.
The deal also propelled Houston as the second-highest paid defensive player in the NFL behind Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s six year, $114 million contract, and eclipsed Texans defensive end J.J. Watts’ six-year, $100 million contract.
But Houston indicated he wasn’t keeping tabs on the contract size.
“I left that up to my agent,” Houston said. “I just made sure to take care of what I had to do on the field.”
Houston lived up to that side of the bargain in 2014 by leading the NFL with a team-record 22 sacks in 2014. His performance resulted in an All-Pro selection and a third straight trip to the Pro Bowl.
The 26-year-old Houston pro has 33 sacks in that past two seasons, marking the second-best amount for back-to-back seasons in Chiefs history behind the late Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas’ team record of 33 ½ sacks.
With the six-year contract in place, the Chiefs secure a defensive player in his prime for the long haul.
“Justin is a great football player,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said Wednesday during a media conference call. “We’ve said all along if you can retain your own football players, great football players, that helps you sustain moving forward. He’s young enough where he’s going to have I foresee many great years with the Kansas City Chiefs organization.”
The contract negotiations between the Chiefs and Houston’s camp weren’t free of stress with Wednesday’s deadline approaching.
Cooler head on both sides, however, prevailed.
“I think you just had to be consistent day in and day out,” Dorsey said, “and kind of peck away and make sure that communications is always ongoing. All along through this process, I told you guys we had been in constant communications and we had. I can’t applaud his agent enough, Joel Segal. I think Joel, he did a great job in this as well in this thing.”
Houston said his return to the Chiefs was important, citing his relationship with the team’s head coach.
“I like Coach (Andy) Reid a lot,” Houston said. “He’s a great coach, he’s helped motivate me, he pushed me to become a better player. So anytime you get around that type of coach, you love to play for him.”
The feeling is mutual.
“John, Joel and their staffs did a great job of getting this deal done,” Reid said in a statement released by the team. “Justin has a relentless work ethic on the field and in the classroom, and he provides our team with tremendous leadership. He is a fearless competitor, and we are glad he is going to be back.”