Colts: Chris Ballard all but confirms Kwity Paye is replacing Justin Houston

Michigan DE Kwity Paye (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Michigan DE Kwity Paye (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Indianapolis Colts’ need for an edge rusher heading into the draft was glaring, as they lost Denico Autry to free agency and negotiations with Justin Houston about a potential return never really progressed after his two-year deal expired.

Well, general manager Chris Ballard made quite the statement when he used his first two draft picks on pass rushing tandem Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo, adding to what was already a crowded Colts defensive line arsenal.

As expected, those selections left fans wondering what the future holds for Houston, who remains unsigned. After all, adding another pass rusher to the mix would really be redundant.

In an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio this week, Ballard that essentially confirmed what fans have been surmising since draft night: Paye is replacing Houston.

It doesn’t sound like Justin Houston will be returning to the Colts.

Let’s put it out there that Indianapolis was seriously considering re-signing Houston before the draft. In fact, leading up to last Thursday night, both Ballard and owner Jim Irsay left the door open for a possible reunion with the four-time Pro Bowler.

However, these comments marked the second time this past weekend that the fifth-year general manager implied that Houston, one of the Colts’ defensive captains who logged 19 sacks and 30 QB hits over the last two years, will likely not be returning.

We were advocating for Indy to re-sign the 32-year-old star for the last few months, but we also didn’t know how unsure Ballard and the rest of the draft room was about how many offensive linemen from this year’s loaded class had long-term futures at left tackle.

Had we known that, we obviously would’ve put it together that the Colts were planning on drafting a pass rusher with one of their first two picks. Given how highly Ballard rates Paye’s motor and versatility — he plans on lining him up at both DE positions and on the inside — Houston’s fate was seemingly sealed the moment the former Michigan star was drafted.

In all honesty, it makes sense why the Colts are moving on from Houston. Not only was the veteran edge rusher inconsistent for his standards last season, but it’s clear Ballard and the coaching staff want to see what they have in their ample young defensive line talent.

From Tyquan Lewis, Kemoko Turay, Ben Banogu, Paye, Odeyingbo and Al-Quadin Muhammad — there will be plenty of snaps to go around — not to mention that some of those players can help spell DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart on the interior for a couple snaps per game.

Houston no doubt exceeded expectations across his two years with Indianapolis, and it will be difficult for fans to accept his tenure ending in this fashion. However, at some point the Colts were  was going to have to give their younger rushers an opportunity to prove themselves.