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What signing Justin Houston means for the Indianapolis Colts

Justin Houston

After waiting for the frenzy of the first week of free agency to die down, the Indianapolis Colts made their first splash of the offseason by signing edge Justin Houston to a two-year contract worth $24 million.

The 30-year-old has been one of the league’s top pass-rushers for the last seven years, and fills a major need for the Colts’ defense.

Houston signed a six-year $101 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs back in 2015, and was cut this past offseason for two reasons; his cap hit and his health.

He is still a very good player, but his cap hit of over $21 million for the Chiefs made him too expensive to keep around. Couple that with his injury history (he has missed 26 games in his career) and it was the difficult but correct decision to move on.

After waiting the market out, Houston landed in a great situation, as he’ll make a good amount of cash while playing on a very good team.

The Colts’ defense isn’t incredibly talented, but the group plays well thanks to defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, who will likely be a head coach somewhere in 2020. Houston will likely rotate between outside linebacker and defensive end depending on the situation and personnel grouping that Indy is in. Wherever he lines up, he will make a big impact.

Despite Houston’s injuries, he has been an extremely consistent player when he is on the field.

In his career, he has logged 408 pressures and 285 run stops according to Pro Football Focus, who has graded him above 85 in four of the past six seasons. PFF also ranks Houston as having the fourth-highest pressure percentage (15.3%) of any EDGE player in the league since 2006. In 102 career games, he has 78.5 sacks and 96 tackles for loss, and 118 QB hits. Simply put, he creates constant pressure on the QB, and that’s exactly what the Colts have been lacking.

In order to make the most of Houston, Indy still needs to add a few pieces to their defense. Specifically, a pass-rushing DT, a CB, and an LB.

Fortunately, there are some very solid players at all three positions in the draft. Adding Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence or Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery in the first round would vastly improve the Colts’ defensive line. Clemson’s Trayvon Mullen, Penn State’s Amani Oruwariye, or Michigan State’s Jeremy Lane would be great additions to the secondary. And there are still some quality free agents available, such as LB Zach Brown.

Having Houston providing pressure will improve the play of Indy’s defensive backs, as the less time the QB has to make a decision on where to throw the ball, the less time DBs must stay close to their man in coverage. Adding even more pass rush should be a priority for general manager Chris Ballard.

Even after signing Houston and wide receiver Devin Funchess to double-digit contracts, the Colts still have over $60 million in cap space.

They are built to win now and in the future, and as long as Andrew Luck is under center and healthy, they will be highly competitive. The addition of Justin Houston will be a boon for Indy’s defense, but they shouldn’t stop there.

A few more pieces are needed to make Indianapolis a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and Ballard’s moves during his tenure give fans many reasons to believe he will do just that.