The Baltimore Ravens allowed both of their top two edge rushers from last season, Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, to depart in free agency. While they did re-sign Tyus Bowser to a modest four-year contract, it’s apparent that they will need more reinforcement when it comes to getting after the passer.
To that end, Baltimore is hosting former All-Pro Justin Houston for a visit on Tuesday. To my understanding, this is the first visit that he has scheduled with any team. According to reports, though, he’s continued to talk with the Indianapolis Colts, where he’s spent the past two seasons.
A former third-round draft pick, Houston, now 32 years old, has spent a decade in the NFL. The first eight years he lined up for the Kansas City Chiefs. He posted (by far) a career-high 22 sacks in his fourth season in 2014. He has four seasons with double-digit sacks overall, including in 2019.
Over the past two years with the Colts, he has played in and started every game. He accumulated 19 total sacks (11 in 2019, eight in 2020), along with three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. He contributed 21 tackles for loss and 30 quarterback hits.
Considering the fact that Judon led the Ravens last season with six sacks, even a 32-year-old Houston would still represent an upgrade for them. But knowing Baltimore, Tuesday’s meeting will consist of them convincing him to wait until after the draft.
As regular readers are aware, the Ravens more than any other team in the NFL place a strong emphasis on working the compensatory pick formula. That requires careful attention — and allowing free agents to walk. They are currently projected to earn a pair of fourth-round draft picks for the losses of Judon and Ngakoue.
Only unrestricted free agents who sign prior to the first Monday after the draft are included within the formula. The last Collective Bargaining Agreement saw it modified from it’s normal date of the first day in June..
Even prior to then, the Ravens have tried (and sometimes failed) to convince free agents to sit tight and wait, with a basic wink-and-nod agreement that they would sign them once they were no longer classified as Compensatory Free Agents.
Given the market this offseason, though, waiting is probably not going to be a problem for the remaining free agents. There is simply not much of a market. Some may benefit from the post-draft roster evaluations that will take place as teams look to sure up their leftover needs. Houston, if still unsigned by then, would be among the top names.