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Chiefs may face franchise-tag dilemma with Alex Smith, Justin Houston

Smith

Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston wants a new contract. So does quarterback Alex Smith. Progress is slow to nonexistent on both fronts, which could be leading to a tough decision for the franchise after the season.

If neither is signed, the franchise tag could be used on only one, allowing the other to hit the market. If one is signed, the other one could be tagged.

The Chiefs presumably hope to persuade Smith to accept a contract similar to the one signed by the man who supplanted him in San Francisco. But if Smith had any interest in inking a Kaepernick-style team-friendly deal, Smith would have by now.

Smith has said he’ll pull the plug on contract talks if they become a distraction; for Houston, the talks aren’t anywhere close to the point at which they could even become a distraction. After the season, if neither is signed, the distraction will be deciding which guy stays under the franchise tag and which guy hits the market.

It would be several million dollars cheaper to use the tag on Houston, but Smith plays a far more important position. Then again, coach Andy Reid may decide that Aaron Murray is ready to become Reid’s next quarterback success story, opting to pay him $510,000 for 2015 in lieu of paying Smith roughly 34 times that amount under the tag.

Reid also may decide that Dee Ford is ready to step in and step up and join Tamba Hali as the team’s top two pass rushers. Which means that the choice between Smith and Houston could end up becoming a “none of the above” proposition.