ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- I recently wrote that the Kansas City Chiefs need to give a new contract to young outside linebacker Justin Houston, who has clearly outplayed the deal he signed as a third-round draft pick in 2011.
Likewise, running back Jamaal Charles has outperformed the contract he signed with the Chiefs in 2010. The Chiefs and Charles have discussed a new deal but in this case I’m going to urge the team to be a lot more cautious in handing out their money.
I’m not suggesting Houston is more valuable to the Chiefs in the short-term or that he’s a better player than Charles. Neither is the case.
But the differences between the two situations are huge, and those differences make it a good idea for the Chiefs to pay Houston but a dicey one to pay Charles.
Though both players have outperformed their contracts, Houston had no choice but to sign his. He was a third-round draft pick with no leverage and no choice but to take Kansas City’s offer or not play.
Charles went willingly into the contract he signed. It wasn’t the offer he was obligated to take in 2008 as a third-round draft choice. In 2010, he opted for Kansas City’s cash up front instead of the chance to eventually become a free agent.
These last two seasons were part of that deal.
A bigger and perhaps more important difference is that Houston's new contract wouldn't be payment for things he's already done. The Chiefs can pay him for his projected production over the life of a long-term contract, as Houston is just 25 and should have several productive seasons ahead of him.
Can you realistically say that about Charles, even though he’s only 27? He’s got a lot of mileage on him. There’s no indication his production is about to nosedive, but at the same time it’s reasonable to believe that his best football is behind him.
So by giving him a fat new contract, the Chiefs would be rewarding him for what he’s already accomplished and not what he's set to accomplish in the future. That’s a dangerous way of doing business, and one that almost always backfires.
A modest raise for Charles is in order. Anything more than that and the Chiefs deserve whatever they get.