Cardinals Urged to Add 4-Time Pro Bowl Pass Rusher

Justin Houston

Justin Houston Justin Houston celebrates with Odafe Oweh in 2021.

During the NFL free agency period, edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney was considered an option for the Arizona Cardinals.

That possibility is no longer a consideration as Clowney is signing a one-year, $11 million to remain with the Cleveland Browns according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.

The 6-foot-5, 255-pounder registered nine sacks with the Browns in 2021.

After losing Chandler Jones in free agency, the Cardinals have Markus Golden and Devon Kennard as their two edge rushers. While the Cardinals selected defensive ends Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders in the third round of the NFL draft, it seems the Cardinals could use more depth and experience on the defensive line.

With Clowney re-signed, there is still an alternative out there for general manager Steve Keim.

Rest of Social Media Reacts’s Gregg Rosenthal wrote a piece on the NFC West and took a deep dive into each team’s attributes and flaws. When highlighting the Cardinals, Rosenthal wrote that the roster “screams out for veteran additions” during the next phase of free agency. Positions such as running back, cornerback, defensive tackle and edge rusher were mentioned to upgrade.

According to Rosenthal, it makes sense for the Cardinals to sign free agent defensive end Justin Houston.

“A signing like Justin Houston would make sense here,” Rosenthal wrote. “For now, the Cardinals are counting on some combination of Markus Golden, Devon Kennard and Dennis Gardeck to help replace Chandler Jones.”

Houston has 102 career sacks and has played with the Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens.

He posted four-and-a-half sacks with the Ravens in 2021. The Ravens used the UFA tender for Justin Houston on May 2, per ESPN’s Field Yates. That means if Houston doesn’t find an outside destination before July 22, the Ravens have exclusive negotiating rights. If the veteran pass rusher signs with a new team before the respective date, the Ravens receive a compensatory pick.

After playing seven seasons with the Chiefs, Houston signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Colts. The former third-round pick would struggle in 2020 with the Colts — logging a career-low 64.4 pass-rush PFF grade.

In 2021, Houston signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Ravens.

Houston could be looking for similar compensation. According to PFF, Houston’s 18 combined sacks and hits ranked 23rd among edge defenders in 2021.

Why Arizona Could Be Interested in Houston

Due to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s 3-4 defense, there’s a possibility that Arizona could be intrigued with Houston, who has a history as a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 outside linebacker.

The Cardinals currently have $2.9 million available in cap space according to AZ Republic’s Bob McManaman. But after defensive tackle Jordan Phillips’ $10 million post-June 1 cut, the team’s cap space will creep to $13 million.

Houston can easily be affordable for the Cardinals and give the team a veteran presence opposite Golden, who led the Cardinals in sacks with 11 in 2021. Adding Houston could also benefit their pass-rushing youngsters in Thomas and Sanders. It would be tough to lean on production from third-round rookies, especially with Thomas, who dealt with a hamstring setback this spring.

The Cardinals will be missing Jones’ 10.5 sacks in 2021. It’s unlikely the team can replace that level of production, especially in the late phases of free agency.

But veterans like J.J. Watt and Zach Allen fill the interior defensive line. There could be times when linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins rush the quarterback. Dennis Gardeck also posted seven sacks in 2020.

Signing Houston wouldn’t make up for the loss of Jones. But the 33-year-old could be valuable, especially knowing Joseph’s defensive rotations and schemes.

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