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Free-Agent Pass Rusher off the Board


Free-Agent Pass Rusher off the Board
Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

When pass EDGE rusher Justin Houston begins his 13th season in the league this September, he’ll do as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, the team he played 15 games for in 2021.

The Kansas City Chiefs drafted Houston in 2011, the same day the Minnesota Vikings welcomed tight end Kyle Rudolph. He spent eight years with the Chiefs, moved on for a couple of seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, and will now embark on Year Two in Baltimore.

The Georgia alumnus is most famous for his 2014 campaign when he registered 22 sacks in a single season. Houston has tallied four Pro Bowls (2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015) in his career and one 1st-Team All-Pro (for the 22-sack season). Since he entered the league in 2011, Houston ranks fourth in sacks with 112, behind Von Miller (115.5), Chandler Jones (107.5), and Cameron Jordan (107.0).

The news is noteworthy for the Minnesota Vikings as the team could stand to improve its pass-rushing depth. For now, Minnesota employs a star-studded duo in Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith at the top of the depth chart, leaving men like D.J. Wonnum, Patrick Jones II, Janarius Robinson, Andrew Mintze, and rookie Luiji Vilain to compete for a third pass-rusher job. While the Vikings were not credibly linked to Houston, he could have fit somewhere on the Vikings defense.

If Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is still interested in bolstering EDGE rusher depth, Carl Nassib, Everson Griffen, Ryan Kerrigan, and Jason Pierre-Paul remain available. In the middle of the defensive line, Minnesota has also been tied to defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in the rumor mill.

Houston, 33, figures to start again for the Ravens 2022 defense. General Manager Eric DeCosta drafted EDGE David Ojabo in the 2022 NFL Draft, but he likely won’t be available until the 2023 season as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon.

Justin Houston
Dec 13, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Justin Houston. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, Houston graded a 77.8 from Pro Football Focus, the 19th-best in the NFL among EDGE rushers. He did not show any signs of an age-related decline in his first season with the Ravens.

Houston logged three quarterback hits against the Vikings in 2021 during a topsy-turvy 34-31 overtime victory in Week 9.

He was collegiate teammates with Matthew Stafford and A.J. Green at Georgia.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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