The Kansas City Chiefs veterans are scheduled to arrive in St. Joseph, MO for training camp today at Missouri Western State University for the final guaranteed training camp there. Recent developments regarding Jamaal Charles’ contract situation have led to some questions about whether he will report to camp, along with Justin Houston.
Charles and Houston are clearly some of the Chiefs’ best players, and whether they attend training camp and resolve their contracts are important for the 2014 season. However, there are 88 other players on the Chiefs roster, and no matter what happens, the season will have to be played, so hopefully the Chiefs have players ready to step up in their place, if needed. Players who miss training camp are subject to fines of $30,000 per day, which is something to keep in mind. Below is some information regarding the current contracts of Charles and Houston:
Jamaal Charles, who is 27 years old, recently started making headlines as reports surfaced that he would possibly hold out of training camp. Charles’ current contract is for 2 more years, and he will make $3.9 million this year ($6 million next year). Much has been said about running backs that make more than Charles, including backs who produced much less than Charles’ 1287 rush yards and 19 total touchdowns last season (the list of running backs who make more than Charles includes Matt Forte, Arian Foster, Jonathan Stewart, and Donald Brown).
If Charles shows up to training camp, he will earn a $1 million bonus. If he holds out, it is likely trying to gain some leverage to get more money/more years on his contract. He will be 29 when his current contract ends, an age when most running backs have already started declining, and it is unlikely he will be able to command more than he could now. It is very apparent how important Charles is to the Chiefs, especially as he accounted for almost 40% of the Chiefs’ offense last season, leading the team in rushing and receiving. Charles currently has the highest yards per rush average in the history of the NFL and has never averaged below 5.0 yards per attempt. He is clearly underpaid relative to other running backs, and he did attend OTA’s and mini-camp. There are ways for the Chiefs to afford giving Charles a raise, such as restructuring his contract and/or giving him a large bonus while paying a low initial base salary. After cutting Brandon Flowers, the Chiefs have around $9 million in salary cap space, some of which needs to go to Justin Houston and Alex Smith.
Justin Houston, who is 25, has one year left on the contract he signed as a rookie. He will make $1.4 million this season which is the third lowest on the projected starting defense, and after making the Pro Bowl twice in his first 3 seasons, he is clearly underpaid as well. Houston skipped offseason activities, including mandatory mini-camp. If Houston holds out, he will forfeit an accrued season, which means he would become a restricted free agent when his contract expires, potentially costing him a large contract. He could be tagged as a franchise player, which all NFL players dread. It is in his best interest to show up to camp on time, and it is expected that he will. He will likely be seeking a contract similar to the 5 year, $57 million extension that Tamba Hali signed in 2011. In the event that Houston holds out, Dee Ford needs to be ready to step up.
Clearly the Chiefs need to resolve both players’ situations (as well as Alex Smith’s, although he has already showed up to training camp and will not be holding out). If Charles holds out, the Chiefs at least know that Knile Davis is a capable backup although he clearly is not the same caliber as Charles. Considering all of the other losses the Chiefs had during free agency, it would be smart for them to lock up Charles and Houston (and Smith). As usual, Kansas City fans need to trust John Dorsey, especially as he has known about all of the contract situations since he took over the reigns as GM.
In more exciting news, the Chiefs first preseason game on Aug. 7 versus the Cincinnati Bengals is only 15 days away!