Cornerback Chris Houston is one of the many defensive players set to become a free agent after the season for the Detroit Lions. The Lions will have several starters and contributors hitting the open market in the offseason, and Houston very well may be the player the Lions need to re-sign the most. He has been their best cornerback this season by a wide margin, and while losing someone like Cliff Avril or Louis Delmas may sting, it would likely be much tougher to replace Houston.
Given that Houston is more likely to hit the open market than re-sign before free agency opens, there is a lot of speculation that the Lions will apply the franchise tag to him. Delmas is a candidate for the franchise tag as well, and although it's unlikely, Avril is also in the mix. If it's up to Houston, one of them will be tagged instead of him based on what he told the Free Press last week.
Houston said he "would definitely not want to be franchise tagged" should the Lions go that route, but is open to returning to the team that took a chance on him three years ago when others would not. He just changed agents -- he signed with Brian Overstreet, who also represents the Lions' Nick Fairley -- and has yet to begin talks with the Lions on a new deal.
"I want to do what's best for my family," Houston said. "Test the market would be a good position and staying here would be a good position, too. But I just want to do what's best at the time."
Last offseason, the cornerback franchise tag was worth $10.281 million (just slightly less than what Avril got with his franchise tag). While that may seem like a lot, especially given the Lions' salary cap situation, let's not forget that Eric Wright got a $37.5 million deal over five years from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last offseason. That's $7.5 million a season. If he was able to get that much, I have to imagine some team out there will be willing to give Houston something similar if he hits the open market. That's why he would prefer to avoid the franchise tag, and that's why the Lions may have to franchise him if they want him back in 2013.