Colts: Should Indy still be in on Justin Houston after latest buzz?

Free agent DE Justin Houston (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Free agent DE Justin Houston (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

As long as their secondary holds up, the production of the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive end rotation could end up determining the defense’s ceiling in 2021.

When Indy opted against re-signing Denico Autry and Justin Houston, both of whom combined to register 13.5 sacks and 22 quarterback hits last season, you kind of got the feeling general manager Chris Ballard was going to go DE-heavy in the draft.

That’s exactly what happened, as the Colts used their first two selections on Kwity Paye (No. 21 overall) and Dayo Odeyingbo (No. 54 overall). They’ll join a room that includes Tyquan Lewis, Kemoko Turay, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Isaac Rochell and Ben Banogu.

There will be plenty of pass-rusher mouths to feed in Indianapolis, but their lack of a veteran presence (at least on the edge) and premier option has instilled some concern amongst fans.

With that in mind, should the Colts consider a reunion with Houston? The 32-year-old is reportedly planning on playing in 2021, as long it’s the right team. He’s also had four teams express interest in signing him with training camp around the corner.

Should the Colts consider a reunion with Justin Houston?

It sounds like Houston’s market is starting to heat up, so the Colts might not get a better opportunity to sign the four-time Pro Bowler. While Ballard admitted earlier this offseason that Indianapolis has a “pretty full” pass-rushing room, re-signing Houston would provide more stability and flexibility on the edge.

Let’s also not forget that Odeyingbo is recovering from a torn Achilles. Assuming the former Vanderbilt star isn’t activated until a month or so into the campaign, how big of a role can fans really expect him to have as a rookie? He’s going to miss the entire offseason, including training camp. You simply can’t expect him to progress quickly.

Taking that into account, shouldn’t the Colts at least consider Houston on a cheap, one-year contract? While the former third-rounder regressed from a production standpoint last season, Indy wouldn’t need him to be a world-beater, especially with DeForest Buckner expected to piggyback off his monster debut season (58 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 26 QB hits).

Of course, the one pitfall of signing Houston is the potential logjam it would create. Would there be enough snaps for guys like Lewis and Turay, both of whom are entering the final years of their rookie deals, to take the next step in their developments and earn new contracts?

These are factors Ballard must consider if he’s serious about re-signing Houston. The GM is probably aware of this, but he also has to ensure a potential Houston deal doesn’t impede negotiations with Darius Leonard, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith.

Assuming all of that checks out, what reason could fans possibly have — unless they possess the utmost confidence in the Colts’ young rushers — to not want Houston back?