Baltimore Ravens sign Justin Houston, examining 2021 defensive impact

The Baltimore Ravens entered training camp recognizing they needed another edge rusher for their defense and they landed one, signing Pro Bowl linebacker Justin Houston.

Houston, age 32, hit the open market this spring as one of the top pass rushers in NFL free agency. But even after an eight-sack season, the four-time Pro Bowl selection only received workouts with teams this summer. Finally, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Houston found a home.

  • Justin Houston stats (2020): 12 quarterback hits, eight tackles for loss, eight sacks and two safeties

He signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts in 2019. Operating as a rotational pass rusher, Houston found tremendous success coming around the edge in Indianapolis with 19 sacks in two seasons.

After working out for multiple teams in recent months, including the Ravens, the veteran outside linebacker weighed several offers. Ultimately, per Schefter, he turned down more money to sign a $4 million contract with Baltimore in the hopes of competing for a Super Bowl ring.

Tim Tebow is now playing tight end for the Jaguars.

How Justin Houston impacts Ravens’ defense

The Ravens have boasted one of the NFL’s best defenses for years. One element of their success was their ability to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks, forcing bad decisions and creating turnovers for a talented secondary.

Under defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, Baltimore’s pass rush is extremely aggressive. The Ravens blitzed on 44.1 percent of their snaps this past season, sending additional rushers far more than the second-most aggressive team (Miami Dolphins, 40.8 percent blitz rate).

Once an area of strength, it was suddenly becoming an area of weakness entering the 2021 season. The Ravens let Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue depart in free agency and planned to thrust first-round pick Odafe Oweh into a significant role.

Considering Oweh was widely viewed as a developmental pass rusher entering the 2021 NFL Draft, adding Houston is significant for a number of reasons.

First, he remains an incredibly effective disruptor in the backfield. According to Pro Football Focus, Houston has the 17th highest pass-rush win rate (16.3 percent) among edge rushers since 2018. The 6-foot-3 linebacker recorded 20 quarterback hurries and 32 total pressures this past season.

There’s another benefit for the Ravens. Houston, who has dominated for years with great pass-rush moves, can be an excellent mentor for Oweh. While Baltimore might need to limit the 32-year-old’s snaps this season, it’s safe to bet on him being an impactful player in 2021.