The NFL's top remaining free agent, ex-Chiefs pass rusher Justin Houston is signing a two-year, $24 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Thursday.
Houston, 30, spent four seasons in Kansas City with Colts GM and reigning Executive of the Year Chris Ballard, formerly the Chiefs' Director of Football Ops. If that didn't make this pairing perfect enough, the Colts also lead the league in cap space and have a major need for an edge rusher.
Houston lasting past the first few waves of free agency might have been a bit bizarre on its surface but had little to do with a lack of suitors. No, with his resume (78.5 career sacks, 14 FF) and premium skill set, he was in the enviable position of letting the market come to him and taking his time finding the right fit.
It's hard to find a better one than Indianapolis, where the Colts haven't had an Alpha pass rusher since the days when Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney were closing out games for Peyton Manning. Coming off a 10-6 season and playoff victory over the division champion Houston Texans, the Colts should be considered AFC heavyweights of the highest order with a healthy Andrew Luck and Houston joining a 'D' that far exceeded expectations in Year 1 under DC Matt Eberflus.
Indeed, although their relative inactivity early in free agency led to some hand-wringing among fans and analysts that watched the silly money spent by teams with less cap space than the Colts, Ballard simply refused to spend just for the sake of spending. Say what you will about the one-year, "prove-it" deal for big-bodied WR Devin Funchess, who can earn up to $10 million this season. But Ballard wisely focused much of his attention on in-house extensions (Margus Hunt) and re-signings (Pierre Desir and Clayton Geathers) until the right opportunity to make a big splash presented itself.
Houston certainly qualifies. His durability concerns are real, with chronic knee issues and no full seasons since he narrowly missed the NFL sack record in 2014. But he finished last season on a tear with six sacks in his final eight games, including sacking his new teammate Luck twice in the playoffs. And although he'll technically switch defensive schemes, Houston will have no problem putting his hand in the dirt and being asked almost exclusively to hunt.
He'll actually get some pointers from Mathis, now a pass-rush consultant and defensive assistant with the Colts, who led the NFL in sacks at the age of 32 in his first full season in a 3-4 after spending his first nine years in an upfield attacking '40' front. Houston might not follow that exact pattern. But it says here he'll have a profound effect on Eberflus' unit — both as a producer and mentor for last year's second-rounders, Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis — whose biggest deficiency a year ago was in creating havoc in the backfield.