It’s extremely rare for a team to be able to sign a future Hall of Fame pass rusher who can still play meaningful snaps at a high level around this time of the year. It’s even rarer that they get him at a discount. However, that is exactly what happened last Monday when the Baltimore Ravens signed four-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Justin Houston to a one-year deal worth up to $4 million with a base value of just $1.075 million and a signing bonus of $1 million.
Money clearly isn’t a motivating factor for the 32-year old Houston at this stage in his career because he even admitted to turning down more money to sign elsewhere before agreeing to terms with the Ravens. One of the most notable teams that he turned down was his new team’s archrival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Houston has made a lot of money during his first 10 years in the league and is just 2.5 sacks shy of reaching 100 in his career. As hungry as he is to reach that momentous milestone, the most significant deciding factor in him signing with the Ravens, besides the fact that they’re among to top championship contenders, was the schematic fit. He believes that Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale and the rest of the staff will be able to get the most out of him and consistently set him up for success.
“I just think they’re going to maximize … They’re going to see on film – from what I show at practice – what I’m good at, and I think they’re going to put me in a position where I can maximize my talent,” said Houston. “Any football player, if you know football, you know defense, that’s what you want to do.”
Martindale is a defensive mastermind who loves to draw up and call creative pressure packages. He exploits mismatches, creates favorable matchups, and even gives some of his edge and off-ball linebackers unimpeded paths to opposing quarterbacks, all of which were part of the allure that drew Houston to Charm City.
“I think it was a better fit for me and what I was looking for,” said Houston. “I just wanted opportunities to have one-on-ones and to be able to put pressure on the quarterback. I think this was the best scheme for me and what I was looking for.”
Both Martindale and Head Coach John Harbaugh have gone on record saying that they already have a role and plan in place for how to use Houston. Their scheme is not only perfect for him but his presence will provide them with even greater schematic flexibility and maximize the impact other members of the defense can have as well.
“We’re excited about it,” Martindale said. “We can’t wait to get him here and get him rolling. I think that it’s going to help us in a whole bunch of different ways. It makes us more flexible.”