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Free Agent Justin Houston Visiting Ravens Wednesday; Jim Irsay Says Colts ‘Still in Play’

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

According to team owner Jim Irsay, the Indianapolis Colts are still in play for veteran free agent pass rusher Justin Houston, who is visiting the Baltimore Ravens today:

However, should Houston depart, Irsay noted that there are still some other options for the Colts—both through free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft to fill the void.

With Jadeveon Clowney having signed with the Cleveland Browns, who the Colts were reportedly ‘keeping tabs’ on, the list has dwindled slightly to Houston, Melvin Ingram, Ryan Kerrigan, and Olivier Vernon among possible remaining veteran free agent options.

Given that he’s familiar with the scheme, teammates, and this locker room, Houston probably makes the most sense for the Colts—but ‘it takes two to tango’.

The 10-year veteran just finished the final season of a 2-year, $24 million deal he signed with the Colts in 2019. The results were largely positive, as Houston combined for 19.0 combined sacks over the past two seasons—while becoming a veteran leader in Indianapolis’s young locker room.

However, having finished with 25 tackles (19 solo), 8 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, 32 total QB pressures, a forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, and 2 safeties during all 16 starts, Houston’s statistical output dipped a bit this past season.

In 2020, he was PFF’s 65th best graded edge rusher with a +62.9 overall grade, significantly down from his +87.1 overall grade just a season prior in 2019.

That being said, ESPN Analytics still had Houston as having the edge position’s 6th highest pass rush win rate overall at 25% in 2020—meaning he may have been more impactful than initially thought.

At 32 years old, Houston isn’t the All-Pro caliber pass rusher he once was, but he can still help a defense as a complementary veteran piece and mentor for younger defenders.

Given that the Colts will be heavily relying on a lot of young, unproven talent such as Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis, and Ben Banogu off the edge to bring consistent pressure, and it may not hurt to bring a stabilizing veteran pass rushing presence like Houston (or another accomplished veteran) into the fold.