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2019 NFL free agency: Chiefs release Justin Houston; could the Patriots be interested?

Houston could be a contingency option in case Trey Flowers leaves.

NFL: AFC Championship Game-New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL’s 2019 free agency only three days away, the tempo of the league’s offseason is starting to pick up — from players like the New England PatriotsDwayne Allen getting released and signed, to teams making trades. One of the latest transactions was made by the AFC’s runner-ups earlier today: the Kansas City Chiefs released star edge defender Justin Houston to increase their salary cap space.

Coming off a season during which he appeared in a combined 14 games and registered 9.0 sacks during the regular season as well as 2.0 in the playoffs, Houston was scheduled to hit the Chiefs’ books with $21.1 million next year. By parting ways with him after reportedly unsuccessfully looking for a trade partner, Kansas City saves $14 million against the cap while simultaneously losing one of its foundational defenders.

Houston, meanwhile, is free to sign with any club now and will certainly generate a considerable market. Which teams will enter it remains to be seen, but it would not be a surprise to see the Patriots at least mentioned among them — especially with standout edge defender Trey Flowers about to hit the open market on Wednesday, and projected to earn between $14 and $17 million per year.

Seeing the 30-year old Houston get a bigger contract than the 25-year old would be a surprise, which in turn could make the Patriots approach the ex-Chief as a contingency option in case Flowers’ market spiraled out of the world champions’ comfort zone. What might also create a link between New England and the veteran pass rusher could be the relationship between the player and Patriots pass rush coach Joe Kim, as ESPN’s Field Yates pointed out:

Justin Houston has an excellent relationship with Patriots pass rush coach Joe Kim from their time together in Kansas City. Will be interesting to see if New England takes a look at Houston, especially if Trey Flowers leaves via free agency.

Ultimately, multiple factors will decide to which degree the Patriots may or may not be in on Houston: from Flowers’ own free agency experience to the former Chief’s asking price. At the end of the day, New England would likely prefer to keep its former fourth-round draft pick around instead of bringing him outsiders to replace him.

That being said, If push comes to shove and keeping Flowers is not an option, Houston might be an interesting plan B considering his experience and high quality against the pass and the run.