As you’ve probably seen by now, the Baltimore Ravens became the latest team in the AFC North to add veteran pass rush help, signing veteran former Pro Bowler Justin Houston on a one-year deal worth $4 million. The move comes following an offseason in which the team lost both Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency.
While they retain the likes of Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson, and used a first-round pick to bring in Odafe Oweh, Houston represents their only pass rusher of meaningful accomplishment on the edge, bringing nearly 100 career sacks to the table.
On Saturday, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh explained that the move was a long time coming, and that they were in talks with Houston and his representatives for months, in consistent contact throughout that time while both sides monitored developments.
“I had a chance to talk to him a lot in the last number of months. He really wanted to be here”, he told reporters. “He wanted to be here months ago. For it to work out the way it did, I just compliment him, his agent and Eric [DeCosta] for getting it done”.
He also said that player-to-player recruitment had a role to play in how it all played out, particularly cornerback Marcus Peters, who played with Houston while they were together with the Kansas City Chiefs. Peters first came over via trade, but has since established himself as a true Raven.
“I know Marcus has been working on him to get him here for a while”, Harbaugh said. “Even in the last couple of days, Marcus made a couple visits over my way to make a couple calls. So, we have a role for him, and he has a chance to really help us. So, I’m excited about it”.
Even as he ages—he is now 32 years old—Houston has retained his pass rush ability, recording eight sacks last season. He most recently posted double-digit sacks in 2019, recording 11 that year, even if he hasn’t been named to a Pro Bowl since 2015.
He had one first-team All-Pro season back in 2014. That year, he led the league with 22 sacks, which is among the highest single-season total in NFL history, but he has never come close to duplicating that. In fact, his next best mark is exactly half at 11, which he’s hit twice, in 2019 and in 2013.
It remains to be seen how everything shakes out, but with the additions of Oweh and Houston, the Ravens should be able to withstand the losses that they suffered in free agency—as always, while recouping compensatory draft picks on the back end.