The NFL's deadline for franchise tag long-term deals is 1 p.m. PT today, and one deal is already in. The Kansas City Chiefs have come to terms with outside linebacker Justin Houston on a six year contract worth up to $101 million. The deal includes $52.5 million in guaranteed money, which is second only to Ndamukong Suh in terms of guarantees for a defensive player. There is no word on the specifics of the guarantees.
We'll keep an eye out for more details, but this contract is very relevant to the San Francisco 49ers. Aldon Smith is a free agent after this year, and his future is not particularly clear. He restructured his option year from guaranteed base salary to some base salary and a whole lot of bonuses. If he stays out of trouble he has a great chance of earning all the bonuses, but it also provides the 49ers with an out in case things go sideways.
I have said I do not expect a contract extension before the season, and in reality, I would be surprised if the two sides agreed to something before the end of the 2015 season. That leaves the team with some time to work on something before the 49ers have to decide whether or not to franchise Smith. If they franchise him, they would then have until mid-July next year to get an extension done.
Houston had 22 sacks last season, and is as fierce a pass rusher as you'll find in the NFL. He had 5.5 sacks his rookie year, 10 in year two and 11 in year three. It's safe to say he is trending in a positive direction. Smith had 14 sacks as a rookie and 19.5 in year two. He had 8.5 in a third year that included a five-game rehab stint, and then two last year following a 9-game suspension.
If Smith can stay healthy and out of trouble this year, and puts up another big year, are the 49ers looking at a potential Justin Houston type extension? If this was after his 2012 season, I think we all would have said yes. Now? Well, it's not quite so clear cut.