Justin Houston

Ravens Re-Sign OLB Justin Houston

Justin Houston will stay in Baltimore. The Ravens reached an agreement to bring back the veteran edge rusher. The team announced the one-year deal Thursday.

The Ravens had placed a seldom-used UFA tender on Houston, giving them exclusive negotiating rights after training camps began later this month. Despite Houston being free to talk to other teams until then, he will rejoin the Ravens, who have been linked to edge rushers for weeks.

This marks the second of 2022’s UFA tender recipients to reach an agreement before the late-July deadline changed negotiation equations. Melvin Ingram, given a UFA tender by the Chiefs earlier this offseason, signed with the Dolphins. Houston, 33, will help a Ravens team that was looking into edge players before Jaylon Ferguson‘s tragic death.

After two seasons with the Colts, the former Chiefs All-Pro outside linebacker signed a one-year $2.28MM deal to join a Ravens team that had lost Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. No similar defections occurred this year, but the team’s main offseason addition at the spot — second-rounder David Ojabo — is rehabbing a torn Achilles sustained during pre-draft workouts. It will be a while before Ojabo’s NFL debut happens, if it occurs in 2022. Auxiliary edge Tyus Bowser is also rehabbing from Achilles surgery, a procedure he underwent after suffering a tear in January. These issues had left Baltimore shorthanded on the outside.

Last season, Houston accumulated just 4.5 sacks. The only season in which the four-time Pro Bowler tallied fewer came in 2016, an injury-shortened campaign. Houston’s 24 pressures ranked outside the top 50 last season. But the Ravens, who drafted Odafe Oweh in the 2021 first round, are seeking a complementary pass rusher alongside their top OLB investment. They visited with Jason Pierre-Paul earlier this offseason but are circling back to a Houston-Oweh tandem. This move also comes after Baltimore changed defensive coordinators. Its new DC, Mike Macdonald, was not with the team in 2021. Houston’s first Ravens season came during Macdonald’s year at Michigan.

While Houston is well past his peak years, which once secured him a six-year deal worth $101MM contract at the 2015 franchise tag deadline, he has managed to shake the injury trouble that plagued him during the second half of his Kansas City stay. The Chiefs cut Houston after the 2018 season, and the former third-round pick did not miss a game in two Colts campaigns. Houston totaled 19 sacks with Indianapolis. He played 15 games for an otherwise injury-ravaged Ravens team last season.

Latest On Ravens’ Edge Rush Pursuit

One of the position groups still surrounded by question marks for the Ravens is that of edge rusher. The team has been connected to a number of veterans this offseason, but little progress has been made lately on any noteworthy additions. 

Arguably the most logical move available is a reunion with Justin Houston. The 33-year-old spent last season with the team, starting all 15 contests he appeared in. He totalled 4.5 sacks and 17 QB hits, providing consistency to an otherwise inexperienced unit. The Ravens have yet to re-sign him, but they placed the rarely-used UFA tender on him. That leaves Houston free to sign with another team until July 22, at which point Baltimore will hold exclusive negotiating rights; a deal on the tender would pay him slightly more than the $2.1MM he made in 2021.

As that deadline approaches, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic writes that the situation between the two sides remains “in a holding pattern” (subscription required). That could lead to a further opportunity for fellow veteran Jason Pierre-Paul to be brought into the fold. The two-time Super Bowl winner visited the Ravens last month, as he looks to join a contender on the open market once again. He had a down season in 2021 with only 2.5 sacks, but is one year removed from his third Pro Bowl campaign.

At present, the Ravens are led in the pass-rush department by Tyus Bowser, whose Week 1 availability remains in doubt due to the torn Achilles he suffered at the end of last season. The same injury will delay second round rookie David Ojabo‘s NFL debut for a significant period of time. That leaves 2021 draftees Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes in line for sizeable roles, with recent signing Steven Means available as depth.

With the aforementioned injury concerns, as well as, unfortunately, a roster spot open after the death of Jaylon Ferguson, Zrebiec “wouldn’t rule out” the possibility of both Houston and Pierre-Paul playing in Baltimore this season. The team is severely lacking in cap space right now, so adding both would be difficult from a financial standpoint; however, the signing of one could be the move most likely to happen between now and training camp.

Packers Eyeing Veteran Edge Addition?

The Packers have made a number of changes to their edge rush group this offseason, but another addition may be in the cards. The team “might be looking for upgrades” at the position, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky

Green Bay lost Za’Darius Smith in free agency to the Ravens, it appeared at first, but he ultimately signed with the Vikings. With the two-time Pro Bowler gone, it became increasingly important that the Packers had re-signed fellow veteran pass rusher Preston Smith at the onset of free agency.

The latter is set to maintain his starting role in 2022. He will be paired with 2019 first-rounder Rashan Gary, who took a significant step forward last season. While that tandem should be in line to replicate their playing time and production from 2021, depth has been a talking point throughout the offseason.

To little surprise, Green Bay added Kingsley Enagbare in the fifth round of the draft to help address that need. The South Carolina product never had more than six sacks in a single college season, but he is listed in Demovsky’s projected depth chart as the No. 3 edge rusher on the roster. Another name included is that of Randy Ramsey, who played almost exclusively on special teams in 2020 as a rookie, and missed the entire 2021 campaign due to an ankle injury.

With very little experience behind Smith and Gary, a veteran signing would make plenty of sense. Some of the top free agents still available include Jason Pierre-PaulTrey Flowers and, depending on the outcome regarding his UFA tenderJustin Houston. Green Bay currently ranks in the top-10 in the league in cap space, so a short-term, low-cost addition would also be financially feasible. Whether they choose to make one in the coming days or weeks could be one of the most important roster decisions still facing the team.

Ravens Seeking Veteran Edge Rush Addition?

This time of the offseason is rife with teams looking to round out their depth charts with available veterans who can help fill remaining roster holes. In the case of the Ravens, that could lead them to be players on the edge rusher market. 

[RELATED: Ravens Eyeing Veteran WRs?]

Jeff Zrebiec of the Athletic (subscription required) writes that Baltimore will “likely still sign a free agent pass rusher”. The team has already added a number of notable players on defense recently, including veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller. Their front seven could stand to be bolstered further, though.

The Ravens currently have Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh at the top of their depth chart at the outside linebacker position. The former stepped into a larger role after the departures of Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue last offseason, and responded by putting up career highs in sacks (seven) and tackles (59). However, he suffered a torn Achilles in the season finale, putting his Week 1 availability in question.

That would place an even heavier burden on Oweh, who flashed potential with a five-sack rookie campaign, and the team’s other young options at the position, Jaylon FergusonDaelin Hayes and, potentially at some point this season, David Ojabo. As a result, it came as little surprise when general manager Eric DeCosta said in April that the team wasn’t finished making additions in the edge department. However, the team didn’t select a pass rusher in the draft other than the injured Ojabo, leaving the June free agent market as the last realistic avenue to add to the unit.

With respect to veterans, the likeliest move could be a reunion with Justin Houston. The Ravens placed the rarely-used UFA tender on the 33-year-old last month, pointing to another low-cost, one-year deal being possible in the near future. The longtime Chief totalled 4.5 sacks in 15 games, providing an experienced presence to an otherwise young unit. If not Houston, other options for the Ravens to target include Trey Flowers and Jason Pierre-Paul. By training camp, the team could very well have signed one of those three, or another edge rusher, to add depth to a position group facing a number of questions.

Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram Hit With UFA Tenders

Both the Ravens and Chiefs made use of a rarely used tender today. Per ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter), free agent linebackers Justin Houston and Melvin Ingram were hit with UFA tenders by Baltimore and Kansas City, respectively.

This makes July 22 (or the first day of training camp, whichever is later) a relatively important date for the two veterans. If they sign with a new team before that date, then they’ll count toward the compensatory pick formula (benefiting their 2021 team). If they remain unsigned, then their 2021 squad will have exclusive negotiating rights, meaning the player will either return to the organization or sit unsigned.

Houston’s offer from Baltimore is worth 110% of his 2021 salary, which was $2.075MM. The veteran inked a one-year deal with the Ravens last offseason, and he ended up collecting 34 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 15 starts for his new team. Houston spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Chiefs, including a 2014 campaign where he compiled 22 sacks.

Per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com, the Chiefs effectively offered Ingram a one-year deal worth $4.4MM. The linebacker was traded to Kansas City last November, and he saw time in nine games (six starts) down the stretch, collecting 15 tackles and one sack. The 33-year-old added another two sacks in three playoff games. The former first-round pick spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Chargers, collecting 49 sacks and three Pro Bowl appearances.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 12/29/21

Several key players returned to practice Wednesday. Here are the latest COVID-19 updates from around the league:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Activated from practice squad/COVID-19 list: WR Rico Bussey

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

NFL COVID List Updates: 12/20/21

A long list of players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. We listed the players who landed on the list today, as well as those who were activated off the list:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: DE John Franklin-Myers, DB Sharrod Neasman

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Ravens Place Justin Houston, Brandon Williams, Others On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Ravens look set to be without several key defenders against the Lions on Sunday. They placed three defensive starters on their reserve/COVID-19 list Friday.

Outside linebackers Justin Houston and Jaylon Ferguson join defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Justin Madubuike in landing on Baltimore’s coronavirus list. While differing protocols exist for vaccinated an unvaccinated players, Friday placements on the virus list leave teams in a bind. This quartet is set to miss Baltimore’s Week 3 game.

It is unclear which members, if any, of the group tested positive. Positive tests would jeopardize their availability for the Ravens’ Week 4 game against the Broncos. Regardless, this continues a brutal season for the Ravens on the availability front.

Baltimore is already without defensive end Derek Wolfe, having ruled out the veteran lineman due to a back injury. Williams has been a starter since 2014, while Madubuike — a 2020 third-round pick — played 49% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps in Week 2.

Houston, 32, has started both Baltimore’s games, lining up opposite Tyus Bowser. The Ravens do have first-round pick Odafe Oweh and Bowser set to be available. Pernell McPhee‘s status is uncertain due to a shoulder injury that prevented him from practicing Friday. Houston, who managed to avoid injuries during both his Colts seasons, will miss his first game since the 2018 season. The veteran edge rusher does not have a sack yet this season but obviously serves as a key player for a Ravens team that let Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue walk in free agency.

Baltimore withstood its numerous injuries to upend Kansas City on Sunday night, but the AFC power’s lineup will be filled with backups in Detroit. The team will again be without left tackle Ronnie Stanley on Sunday as well, ruling the All-Pro blocker out due to an ankle injury.

T.J. Watt Staging Hold-In

Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt is staging a hold-in. Although Watt has been in attendance at training camp since it opened, he is not participating in any hitting or team drills. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler confirmed that is because Watt is waiting on a contract extension.

I don’t blame him for [sitting out] because you don’t want to get hurt when you are trying to get your contract done; then you lose some sort of flexibility in terms of what you can sign,” Butler said (via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic). “I hope they get it done.”

The Steelers do not like to engage in contract negotiations once a season begins, which means that the club’s Week 1 matchup with the Bills on September 12 would be the deadline for finalizing a Watt extension this year. But while head coach Mike Tomlin generally eases his top players into the grind of training camp, the team still wants Watt to get involved in team activities well before the regular season opener.

Regardless of when it happens, the Steelers will need to dole out a ton of cash to keep Watt in the fold for the long haul. Kaboly expects the Wisconsin product to become the highest-paid defensive player in league history, which would mean an AAV of over $27MM with roughly $80MM in full guarantees. 

Watt’s performance to date justifies that type of expenditure. Stout against the run and pass, the 26-year-old (27 in October) graded out as Pro Football Focus’ third-best edge player last season out of 108 qualifiers. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro, and he has averaged about 14 sacks a year since his sophomore campaign. Even though Pittsburgh is entering something of an organizational crossroads due to its quarterback situation, retaining Watt seems like an absolute must.

The club did add a little pass rushing support for Watt when it signed Melvin Ingram last month. Pittsburgh was also in on Justin Houston, who ultimately signed with the division-rival Ravens. Houston himself said he was very close to signing with the Steelers, but that Baltimore was his first choice (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic). Ingram, like Houston, is a complementary piece at this stage of his career, and his presence doesn’t necessarily give Pittsburgh any more leverage in Watt negotiations.

Ravens Sign DE Justin Houston

9:52am: Houston has indeed joined the Ravens. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the veteran pass rusher is signing with Baltimore. It will be a one-year deal worth up to $4MM for the veteran, and Schefter reiterates that Houston turned down higher-paying offers from rival teams. Meanwhile, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic tweets that Houston will earn a $1.075MM base salary and a $1MM signing bonus, and there’s an opportunity to ear another ~$2MM via Pro Bowl and sack incentives.

9:24am: Justin Houston is zeroing in on a suitor. Jason La Canfora reports (via Twitter) that the veteran defensive lineman recently reached out to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh “to convey a willingness to come to Baltimore.”

As La Canfora notes, the Ravens are Houston’s top choice, and it sounds like he’s willing to take a discount to make it happen. Houston is willing to sign for “considerably less than market,” and the player’s camp is ready to work with the organization with the understanding that the front office is dealing with cap constraints. As La Canfora tweets, the player had more lucrative offers on the table, but he ultimately turned down contracts from his many suitors.

We learned earlier this week that the pass rusher had a long list of potential suitors, with the Colts and Steelers mentioned as potential landing spots. Given Houston’s track record and newfound ability to stay healthy, it makes sense that he still has a market. The 32-year-old totaled 19 sacks in two Colts seasons, playing out a two-year, $23MM deal. His history with knee trouble notwithstanding, Houston did not miss a game as a Colt. Houston missed 26 games during his eight years with the Chiefs, but he was still plenty productive, collecting 78.5 sacks (including a 22-sack campaign in 2014).

The Ravens certainly have a need for a veteran pass rusher. The team lost Matt Judon, who led the 2020 squad with six sacks, in free agency, and the organization also lost the likes of Yannick Ngakoue and Jihad Ward.