The 49ers' need to improve their pass rush isn't exactly a secret. A new option to do so reportedly could be on the market.
The Kansas City Chiefs have discussed trading edge rusher Justin Houston, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday night, citing sources.
Sources: The #Chiefs have had trade talks centered around star pass-rusher Justin Houston. With Houston’s cap number and the potential to franchise tag Dee Ford, Houston appears to be a rare top pass-rusher available. Teams have been calling with real interest.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 28, 2019
Houston recorded nine sacks in 12 games with the Chiefs last season, but he hasn't hit double digits since recording a career-high 22 in 2014. He also managed 12 quarterback hits, his fewest in a season in which he played at least 10 games since his rookie year.
As Rapoport alluded to, Houston would carry a salary-cap number of $21.1 million for the Chiefs next season, according to OverTheCap.com. If he is traded before June 1, Kansas City can save $14 million against the cap, and $15.5 million if he is traded after.
The 49ers would have plenty of cap space to bring Houston into the fold (over $69 million), and a complimentary role in a pass rush that includes DeForest Buckner (12 sacks last season) could suit him well as he enters his 30s. And they could use the help, especially as they tied for the eighth-fewest sacks in the NFL last season.
But Houston might not be the clear update they're searching for, considering he recorded fewer QB hits than Cassius Marsh and Ronald Blair (14) last year, and as many as Arik Armstead. The 49ers also would have to consider what combination of picks and players it would take to pry Houston from Kansas City, and whether or not bringing in his contract would prevent them from seeking other necessary upgrades in free agency.
Houston's reported availability would give the 49ers another option to choose from in order to improve their pass rush. If the price is right, we could know for sure as soon as the 2019 league year begins March 13.