Chiefs could move Ford, Houston, sources say

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dee Ford and Justin Houston combined for 22 sacks last season and 47.5 the past three seasons for the Chiefs. But it’s possible that neither will play for Kansas City in 2019.

The Chiefs placed the franchise tag on Ford on Monday but are listening to trade offers for the outside linebacker and have received interest from multiple teams, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Kansas City is open to bringing Ford back, though, in the event that it does not find a suitable trade partner.

Houston has also been informed that the Chiefs will try to trade him, a source told ESPN, and if no deal is reached he will be released. Houston carries a salary-cap number of $21.1 million for next season; trading or releasing him would save the Chiefs $14 million against the salary cap.

The Chiefs intend to switch their base defensive scheme from a 3-4 to a 4-3 under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, necessitating a position change for both players. They would be defensive ends in the new system after playing outside linebacker in the 3-4.

Ford, who will turn 28 on March 19, finally became the player the Chiefs envisioned when they drafted him from Auburn in the first round in 2014. Ford started all 16 games for the first time in his career and had a career high of 13 sacks. He was also selected to play in the Pro Bowl for the first time.

The wait for Ford to become a consistently productive player was a long one. He had a total of 17.5 sacks in his first four seasons. Ten of those sacks came in a nine-game stretch in 2016. Otherwise, until 2018, Ford had 7.5 sacks to show for his other 42 games.

Ford ended his best season with his least productive game. He had no sacks or tackles in the Chiefs’ AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots. Ford was also penalized for lining up offside on a play that resulted in an interception in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

The interception could have allowed the Chiefs, who had a four-point lead at the time, to run out the clock. Instead, the Patriots continued their drive to a go-ahead touchdown and eventually won in overtime.

Houston, who turned 30 in January, joined the Chiefs as a third-round draft pick (70th overall) from Georgia in 2011. He showed his immense pass-rush ability by getting three sacks in a game against the Bears as a rookie. He had 22 sacks in 2014, missing the NFL record by a half-sack.

Houston hasn’t come close to that standard since. His best sack total the past four seasons was 9.5 in 2017. He has 78.5 career sacks, putting him fourth on the Chiefs’ all-time list.

Houston in 2015 signed a six-year contract worth $101 million, making him at the time the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.

He was more than just a pass-rusher for the Chiefs. He was an excellent all-around player who defended the run well. He was chosen to play in the Pro Bowl three times and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2014.

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