Colts taking serious gamble letting Justin Houston sign with rival

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

Despite losing Justin Houston and Denico Autry to free agency, the Indianapolis Colts have been reluctant to splurge on a high-end pass rusher this offseason.

The Colts’ have a razor-thin margin for error in a loaded AFC, and rolling with a largely unproven group of defensive ends is all kinds of risky.

Why do you think we’ve been advocating for general manager Chris Ballard to trade for Chandler Jones, who recently requested a trade from the Cardinals? We even pushed for a reunion with Houston, who, up until Saturday, was still searching for a new home.

That’s right, folks. The Colts squandered a prime opportunity to bolster their pass rush at a discount, because Houston inked a one-year, $4 million deal with the Ravens.

While a reunion with the four-time Pro Bowler never seemed to be in the cards, Indy is taking a massive gamble letting him sign with a conference rival.

The Colts letting Justin Houston sign with the Ravens is risky business.

This one stings, as Houston proved to be an excellent fit in the Colts’ defensive scheme, compiling 69 tackles, 19 sacks, 30 QB hits, 54 pressures and three forced fumbles from 2019-20. Despite being on the proverbial back-end of his career, he never missed a game for Indy.

Ballard confirmed the Houston divorce earlier in the offseason when he said there wasn’t room on the roster for another DE. The fifth-year GM has been adamant about wanting to get the Colts’ younger pass rushers more playing time, and this Houston news hammers that point home.

In fairness to Ballard, he needs to know what he has in the likes of Tyquan Lewis, Kemoko Turay and Ben Banogu sooner or later. Lewis and Turay will be free agents next offseason, while Banogu is entering a make-or-break season after he played just 10% of the snaps last year.

Additionally, the Colts would like to get No. 21 overall pick Kwity Paye enough snaps to contribute as a rookie. They would also like to avoid creating a logjam so second-round selection Dayo Odeyingbo has a role after he’s activated off the active/NFI list.

You know what really twists the knife, though? The fact Houston reportedly rejected offers from several teams, including a lucrative contract from an AFC North squad.

With decisions coming on Lewis’, Turay’s and Banogu’s contracts, perhaps Ballard felt he couldn’t risk them playing a secondary role again. It’s easy to see the logic in that thought process, but we’d hate to see the Colts’ pass rush hold this defense back, because it has best-in-the-league potential if all of its major pieces stay healthy.

It just doesn’t sit right that Houston was there for the taking and ended up turning down more guaranteed money from other teams to sign with one of the Colts’ biggest rivals. Let’s hope Ballard’s faith pans out, because this is begging to blow up in Indianapolis’ face.