Patience is a virtue. That is a saying that Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has been preaching to the Baltimore faithful since the start of free agency and that patience has paid off handsomely. Former Kansas City and Indianapolis pass rusher Justin Houston has found his way to Baltimore for a shot at a championship. Houston had visited the Ravens for a free agent visit back in April but he left Charm City without a deal. Now, three months later, a deal between the two sides has been reached and a massive hole on the roster has been filled. This signing, in a sense, fills the last major need for the Ravens.
The offseason has not been kind for the Ravens defense as the team had seen Matt Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, and Jihad Ward all leave for greener pastures. Those departures left the Ravens thin at pass rusher but the front office has taken steps to reinforce the position. Veterans Pernell McPhee and Tyus Bowser both resigned with the team while the Ravens drafted Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes in the first and fifth rounds, respectively. The signing of Justin Houston is the proverbial cherry on top of a revamped EDGE group.
Justin Houston, 32, signed a one year deal that pays him a base salary of $1.075 million with a $1 million signing bonus. The contract is laden with incentives worth up to $2 million that could push the total amount of the contract to around $4 million. For a Ravens team that is strapped for cash (around $8 million left in cap space), this signing was an absolute steal. Houston’s NFL resume is an impressive one. Since entering the league in 2011, he has amassed 97.5 sacks with the Chiefs and Colts which is third most in the league in that span. Despite being a somewhat older defender, Houston has still collected at least 9 sacks since 2017, showing that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
That sort of production is much needed for a Ravens defense that has struggled to get sacks over the last few years. Despite blitzing more than any other team in the league since 2018, the Ravens rank 13th in sacks in that span. An even more worrying stat is that Baltimore ranks dead last in the league in terms of sack production when not blitzing. The Ravens have been yearning for that difference making EDGE defender since the departure of Terrell Suggs. While their first round pick Oweh may eventually become that difference maker, he may be a bit too green to be readily relied on to create a consistent pass rush. While Houston may not be in his prime anymore, he’s still a threat to get to the quarterback and can win those crucial one-on-one matchups.
This was a shrewd signing by Eric DeCosta that caps off what should be seen as a highly successful offseason for the Ravens. Houston joins a plethora of new faces such as Sammy Watkins, Kevin Zeitler, Rashod Bateman and Odafe Oweh that all look to greatly improve a team with championship aspirations. Houston is a highly productive player that provides a veteran presence on a shockingly cheap deal and fills the biggest hole left on Baltimore’s roster. Though many fans may have been vocally panicking about not bringing in another pass rusher during the initial wave of free agency, there is a reason why the saying “In EDC We Trust” is a popular saying around Ravens circles. As we prepare to enter the 2021 NFL season, the Baltimore Ravens now officially boast one of the more complete rosters in the league thanks to the addition of the great Justin Houston.