Ravens Finally Sign Veteran Edge Rusher: Report

Ravens Justin Houston

Getty Justin Houston strips new teammate Lamar Jackson in 2018.

With the loss of their top two edge rushers in the offseason, the Baltimore Ravens were in need of pass-rushing talent to bolster their defense in 2021.

After months of speculation, the Ravens have signed DE Justin Houston to a one-year contract worth up to $4 million, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday, July 31.

The market for edge rushers had thinned considerably in recent weeks with the Kansas City Chiefs’ signing of Alex Okafor and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ signing of Melvin Ingram III.

Proven Talent & Production

The Ravens lost OLB Matt Judon and DE Yannick Ngakoue in free agency this season, pushing pass rush to the top of their offseason priority list. While they drafted OLB Odafe Oweh and OLB Daelin Hayes, they were still looking for a proven edge rusher.

They seem to have found their man in Houston, who tallied 19 sacks in the last two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. The 2011 third-round draft pick had an illustrious career in Kansas City before his stint in Indianapolis, making four Pro Bowls and receiving an All-Pro selection in 2014, when he led the NFL with 22.0 sacks.

He will be an excellent fit in Ravens’ defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale’s blitz-happy scheme that frequently puts edge rushers in one-on-one matchups with opposing offensive linemen. Houston’s 16.3% pass-rush win rate since 2018, per Pro Football Focus, should translate into consistent pressure on the quarterback.

Age is unlikely to be a concern for the 32-year-old, who boasts one of the most complete pass-rush arsenals in the NFL. His career 97.5 sacks in 10 seasons put him behind only NFL Defensive Players of the Year Von Miller and J.J. Watt in that span.

Beyond his on-field contributions, Houston is expected to make an impact in the locker room with his experience and leadership. The Ravens hope Houston will help rookies Oweh and Hayes along in their development. This video from defensive line coach Aaron Day highlights Houston’s cerebral approach to getting to the quarterback.

Details of the Deal

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has pulled off yet another heist with this deal. Houston signed for a base salary just north of $1 million that could rise to $4 million with incentives, and a cap hit of $2.075 million, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec.

This signing represents the Ravens’ continued refusal to pay a premium for pass rushers, contrary to most of the rest of the league. They allowed Judon and Ngakoue to leave for lucrative deals in free agency, choosing instead to look for value in the draft and free agency.

Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reported that Houston turned down multiple offers from other teams to join the Ravens, including one for significantly more money from an AFC North division rival. Houston’s visits with the Ravens yielded mutual interest in a deal, but the cap-strapped Ravens could not make a hefty offer to the 10-year vet. Houston was willing to accept a deal for less money in order to join a Super Bowl contender in Baltimore.

Houston’s addition will shake up the roster in Baltimore. He’ll compete for playing time with the team’s collection of edge rushers, hoping to take that unit to the next level in the Ravens’ pursuit of a championship.

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