When news broke the Kansas City Chiefs had interest in former Cleveland Browns LB Paul Kruger early Tuesday morning, it made sense when you consider All Pro linebacker Justin Houston was headed to the PUP list.
For the Chiefs, the news was compounded when the team also announced fellow linebacker Josh Muaga was lost for the season. The Chiefs can survive the loss of Muaga, but missing Houston for as many as 10 weeks sends up red flags for KC’s defensive hopes in 2016.
Houston will have a follow-up visit with Dr. James Andrews in four weeks. If Houston receives a thumbs-up to return to practice, he will be eligible to do so after Week 6. However, the Chiefs could drag his return to the active roster out for another three weeks giving Houston more time to get into NFL shape.
Regardless, with a pass defense struggling to sack quarterbacks, the pursuit of Kruger becomes imperative for the Chiefs. With Houston on the sidelines until November, Kansas City can’t rely on an aging Tamba Hali or an ineffective Dee Ford. Kruger is in New Orleans today and is likely going to receive an offer from the Saints. If there is a silver lining for both teams, New Orleans cap situation is in dire straits.
To this stage of his career, Houston has been the pulse of the Chiefs pass rush since his arrival in 2011. For his career, Houston has recorded 56 sacks in five NFL seasons. Before camp began a year ago, Houston signed a six-year, $101 million contract that included $52.5 in guaranteed coin.
With that iron in the bank, the Chiefs best pass rusher missed the last five games of the regular season a year ago, tweaking his knee, but returned in the postseason, only to injure his knee again in the team's postseason victory over the Houston Texans. In March, once the swelling subsided, he received a touch-up operation from Dr. Andrews and Kansas City remained optimistic that Houston could return at some point this season.
In placing him on the PUP list today, and not injured reserve, it appears Houston will return to the Chiefs in time to helps his teammates push for an AFC West title.
Until then, it’ll be interesting to see how the Chiefs adjust to temporary life without Houston, and if the pursuit of Kruger materializes into a deal. But whatever transpires in the coming days in regards to potential roster additions, this is a big loss for Kansas City.