KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, who led the league with 22 sacks, is the second-ever recipient of the Deacon Jones Award, the NFL announced Wednesday.
The award was created in 2013 and named in honor of the late Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones. It is given annually to the NFL leader in quarterback sacks.
“I’m very honored and humbled to earn this award named after one of the greatest defensive players and sack masters of all time,” Houston said in a statement. “I’d like to thank my teammates, coaches and our fan base. They rallied behind us all season long and helped fuel our pass rush. To have my name mentioned in the same sentence as a player like Deacon Jones is truly a blessing.”
Houston, who was recently named to his third straight Pro Bowl, finished a ½ sack from tying the single-season record of 22 ½ established by Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan in 2001.
The fourth-year pro out of Georgia also established a new single-season team record previously held by Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas’ 20 sacks in 1990.
Not bad for a 25-year-old player who played the 2014 season in the final year of his contract.
Houston has been on a terror for opposing quarterbacks the past two seasons, totaling 33 sacks in that span to record the second-best mark for back-to-back seasons in franchise history. The production ranks second to Thomas’ team record of 33 ½ sacks established during the 1990-91 seasons.
Houston’s 48 ½ sacks on his four-year career in Kansas City ranks sixth in team history and he is the ninth player in team history to record 40 or more sacks.
The Chiefs clearly have a major decision to make on Houston.
Options include re-signing him to a long-term contract, utilizing the franchise tag designation before the March 2, 2015 deadline or allow him to walk when free agency opens at the start of the NFL’s calendar year on March 10.
When it comes to the franchise designation between defensive end and outside linebacker, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey made it clear how the team views Houston during a sit down with local beat writers Monday.
“In my opinion he plays outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme,” Dorsey said. “I think the last play in the game yesterday (Sunday), he dropped in the flat.”
Dorsey wouldn’t offer a hint as to the direction the Chiefs are leaning or provide a specific update surrounding negotiations with Houston’s representatives.
“That part of it has been going on, but again it is conversation,” Dorsey said. “It’s the part of the business side that I don’t want to talk about. No disrespect there, but I don’t think it’s good. I can say its ongoing business. That’s ongoing conversation.”
That the two sides have open dialogue could be viewed as a good sign when considering a league source familiar with the situation told ChiefsDigest.com as recent as Week 11 that “no substantial talks” have occurred between the Chiefs and Houston’s camp since the start of the regular season.
Regardless what happens in the coming months, Houston’s record-setting season and three straight Pro Bowl nods will only add to the negotiations.
In the meantime, the NFL will officially recognize Houston for his latest achievement as part of NFL Honors, the league’s primetime awards show scheduled to air on NBC at 9 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, 2015.