Will Justin Houston's Absence Force Kansas City Chiefs To Go Free Agent Route?

I don't believe Scott Pioli's list was that long this off-season. After all, a team with 10 wins doesn't yield nearly as many holes as the two win team he and Todd Haley inherited. Reinvent the wide receiver corps. Address the defensive interior. Continue the youth movement along the offensive line. Find a counterpart to both replace Mike Vrabel and complement Tamba Hali.

It's that last item that's become the most troublesome. Pioli might have believed he addressed the problem with third round choice Justin Houston -- a player who many scouts agree has first round talent yet seemed to find drama and distractions surrounding him in his college career. Now for reasons unknown, Houston is the one remaining rookie that has yet to join the Chiefs. Yet he was arguably the one who needed to get himself into training camp the fastest.

No reason has been given from either side in the negotiations with Justin Houston, so any writer or report out trying to make sense of the matter is pure conjecture. However, what is clear is that every day missed is another practice or two away from the team, away from Romeo Crennel's playbook, away from the locker room and even away from the ethos of the team culture that Haley has worked hard to build. There's a Chiefs way, simply put, and Justin Houston has no idea what that even means.

Even if Houston signs soon, questions will remain about how game-ready he will be, which is what the Chiefs needed him to be when they chose him in April. The need still remains whether or not Justin Houston might eventually be ready at some indiscernible point down the road. Can the Chiefs count on Justin Houston at this point? Probably not. It's definitely not a lost cause, but at some point, the team and Scott Pioli is going to have to think about addressing the same position and need in another way. Because the NFL season will be here and the need for another legitimate pass rusher will be glaring -- the same way it was last season, except against a much more difficult schedule.

Wallace Gilberry will certainly be playing well with a chip on his shoulder as he hopes to prove he's an every down player who warrants mention alongside other promising pass rushing ends in the NFL. Brandon Siler might add some intrigue from the interior linebacker position. Kelly Gregg might eat up more blockers in the middle, freeing up other players to come through. And I still love the blitzing options at cornerback that Javier Arenas affords. 

But it was Houston who was brought in to be the "other" sack guy -- a guy who approaches double digit sacks from the opposite side that makes opposing quarterbacks afraid. Now it's the Chiefs who might be a bit nervous about where they go from here. Perhaps the Chiefs will bring in a Matt Roth type to provide that presence. Maybe another free agent will come in. But at this point, I can't imagine the Chiefs feel as comfortable with their choices as they did in April.

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