The Indianapolis Colts haven’t necessarily landed that ‘big name’ free agent yet (unless you’ve always been a big Devin Funchess fan), but it’s possible they still could as former Kansas City Chiefs pass rusher Justin Houston remains on the open market.
The 1x First-Team All-Pro and 4x Pro Bowler isn’t just a big name, as he still has plenty of game left in the tank finishing last season with 9.0 sacks, as well as 37 tackles, 5 forced fumbles, and an interception in 12 starts for the Chiefs defense.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), the 9-year veteran earned a +89.8 pass rushing grade, which ranked the 4th best among edge defenders.
Of course, Colts general manager Chris Ballard already has a great familiarity with Houston and can certainly vouch for what the veteran can bring to any locker room—having previously served as a Kansas City Chiefs football operations executive.
The Colts defense could also use the pass rushing help.
Matt Eberflus’ defense finished 19th with 38.0 sacks last season and for all of the impressive speed and mad hornet-like “swarming” often showcased by his defense, it’s still a unit that struggled generating pass pressure at times.
In a conference where the Colts are likely going to have to go through either Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes to reach the Super Bowl—maybe both, that can be problematic.
At 30 years old, Justin Houston likely isn’t what he once was, having had a whopping 22.0 sacks in 2014, but he still can be a highly valuable veteran rotational pass rusher for any NFL team. No, he’s not Von Miller these days, but then again, he wouldn’t be available if he was, and the Colts certainly won’t have to pay him like he is.
Given his age, it’s only logical that he could be had on a possible 2-3 year deal, which should be right up Chris Ballard’s alley in terms of his preference structuring contracts. The Colts young GM’s ‘sweet spot’ appears to be offering deals that essentially only have 2 years of significant cap ramifications with then easy exits—if needed.
On a young pass rushing corps that includes Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis, and very likely an early round rookie(s) come April, it’s possible the battle-tested veteran Houston could show them a thing or two with 78.5 career sacks (and counting).
In today’s passing league, a team can never have enough impact pass rushers, and they’re always held at a premium. Houston is very much still that.
Yes, he’s 30 years old, but Colts fans shouldn’t be having flashbacks to former veteran pass rusher Trent Cole, who was 33 when Indianapolis signed him and largely a disappointment—having only 5.0 sacks combined in two seasons (2015-16).
In comparison, Houston has a few years of youth in his favor and seemingly much more ‘juice’ left than Cole, who appeared to be running on fumes when he ended his career in Indianapolis.
Just ask Andrew Luck, as Houston took him down twice in the Colts AFC Divisional Round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs this past January.
In fact, Houston’s 9.0 sacks last season would’ve tied the Colts team leader Denico Autry.
How’s that for ‘old age’?
Let’s skip the formalities folks, signing the veteran sackmaster just seems shrewd for the Colts.