Colts Rumors: Indy not giving up on Justin Houston
By Jerry Trotta
The surprise re-signing of beloved wideout TY Hilton did a lot to distract Indianapolis Colts fans from the fact that the front office has been maddeningly unassertive during the initial stages of free agency.
However, now that the buzz surrounding that deal has simmered, everybody should go back to focusing on the Colts’ biggest remaining needs.
If there’s one position ever-diligent GM Chris Ballard could justify splurging on, it’s defensive end, which remains an area of concern following the departure of Denico Autry, who signed a three-year, $21.5 million deal with the division-rival Tennessee Titans.
On top of that, Justin Houston, who started opposite Autry last season and recorded 8.0 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 25 pressures, is still braving the free agent waters.
Well, the latest rumor about the Colts’ reported intentions with Houston is bound to resonate with the fan base.
In his latest piece for The Athletic, insider Stephen Holder analyzed the team’s depth chart and noted that Indy is fully aware of their need for an edge rusher and is still interested in re-signing the four-time Pro Bowler.
The Colts are reportedly kicking the tires on a Justin Houston reunion.
As Holder asserted, published in The Athletic (subscription required) and disseminated on Stampede Blue:
"“Things remain fluid with veteran Justin Houston, who is still talking to the team and could be re-signed,” wrote Holder regarding the team’s depth chart. “The team is also in talks with several veteran edge players, according to a league source. A free-agent move before the draft is possible if not likely.”"
We all know how vital pass rushers are to defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ scheme, which emphasizes dropping back in coverage and unleashing several rushers to lessen the pressure on the secondary and decrease the likelihood of giving up chunk plays.
In the simplest of terms, Houston has been the Colts’ most effective player in that department over the last two seasons. He appeared in all 32 games during that span, registering 69 tackles (21 for loss), 19 sacks, 30 QB hits, 53 pressures, three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
ESPN’s advanced analytics marked him as the sixth-most-effective pass rusher in the league, and PFF’s ratings of his services were also upper echelon, if you prefer non-traditional statistics.
Entering his age-32 season, Houston might need to be rotated more than usual, but that fits right into the Colts’ blueprint. Not to mention they have the requisite depth with players like Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis, and new signing Isaach Rochell available to spare him for a few plays.
Houston’s days of being the best player on a defense are clearly behind him, but he still has a knack for making plays in big moments of games. The 10-year pro proved last season that he can flourish playing alongside interior beasts like DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart.
The Colts are reportedly sniffing around the entire edge rushing market, but if we’re talking about best fit and getting the most bang for your buck, Houston should be the answer.